By Elisabeth Clay
Everyone talks about the hard camps and the dieting—and how hard and stressful it is — but I don’t think enough people talk about how hard it can be (at least for me) to take intentional time oﬀ. How lazy you can feel, and how much anxiety can you have when you don’t have a hard ridged schedule? Now, when I’m saying time oﬀ, I don’t even mean not training. I just mean intentionally not training as hard or possibly as much. I mean letting yourself relax a little, getting some mental and physical rest.
Taking a Break
I had decided before Worlds that after I wasn’t going to fight until at least February. I had things to move so I would train after I moved my stuff (maybe a week taken oﬀ). But even after getting back to training, the feeling that I wasn’t training as hard or as much or didn’t have a competition gave me anxiety. I had to talk myself through it. This is something I know I need because I spent many years never giving myself this. I would train on Christmas Day, on thanksgiving, all the time, 7 days a week. I would basically train every day the whole year unless I was competing. I would even train the day I would fly back in after a seven hour flight. Exhausted, I still made myself train.
It worked, but it drained me.
I’m learning to give myself a little break, even if it gives me anxiety. I know on the other side I will come out stronger and healthier. I will be able to push even further. I suppose I am trying to think of it like this: you can’t give from an empty glass. I can’t give my best in training or in competitions, seminars or anything if I don’t give myself a chance to recharge or “refill” that glass.
For Those Starting Out
For anyone just starting out, I suggest you do this: learn it earlier rather then later. Now that doesn’t mean “oh I’m tired, so I won’t train.” You need to train a lot and train hard. But at the end of the year, the end of the season, give yourself a few weeks so you can hit the new year even harder. Take this time to heal old or new injuries, do physical therapy, do the things you put oﬀ during the year because you are training or competing or traveling so much. Get it all done now so that when the next year is here you can take it on full force without other things getting in the way. Trust me, starting a season or year hurt isn’t the way to do it because you wouldn’t take the time oﬀ to let yourself rest and heal. This is what I have done many of the last 10 years. I would only take off when forced to.
Training Through Pain
I have trained with breaks and tears, when bruised, battered, and exhausted, and I still pushed hard through it. As time has continued, my injuries and stress have accumulated. I think I saw so many people use every excuse not to train, and still call themselves “athletes,” that I over compensated to the other extreme. I think planned time for rest, recovery, and reassessment as necessary, but I am thinking at this point the difference is planning as opposed to making excuses when I’m tired or just not in the mood to train.
What I’ll Do This Year
This year I planned time down. I still train jiu jitsu twice a day, but it is different. It is not about the grind. It is more about movement. My lifting and side conditioning has taken the focus of rehabilitation. I will focus on physical therapy exercises, swimming, and things that I don’t necessarily like doing but help reset my body. The mental aspect has to be the hardest. I tell myself daily that I must reset to be more. That the constant push is not sustainable for my body. That I am not lazy, but being smart. Thank goodness for a great support team that keeps me focused on this fact and that rest is a healthy part of an athletes lifestyle. It is working. At this point my focus is shifting to long term sustainability for a career. Learn to schedule rest and rehab in your regiment. May you find your balance in your path as I am trying to find it in mine. Happy New Year to you all and see you on the mats in 2022. Find your lion or lioness!