Plan for burnout?
Yes, you read that right. Your moment of inspiration is important, yet temporary. The truth is, human nature is a series of highs and lows. We can’t usually predict exactly when our motivation will falter, but it inevitably will. I can’t in good conscience ask you to ignore this fact of life, but we can be prepared when it comes. Let’s look at three common types of burnout, and some healthy options for getting past them.
In the beginning, we have a clear direction. Simply know and understand more. Our coaches, teammates, videos, and books all offer some guidance to get past the beginner phase. The first six months are definitely the toughest, but the sense of urgency and excitement makes it go by pretty quickly. People tend to burn out in this phase from either overtraining or undertraining. Overtraining usually seems like a good idea at the time. If you attend more classes you get better. Certain people can actually handle a lot more than others. A college wrestler can handle five or more tough classes and rolls every week. However, a dentist with no athletic background might need to start with two or three classes and pick his rolls carefully.
Undertraining is exactly the opposite. Sometimes new guys disappear because of minor pains and discomfort. They misread common advice to take time off, and develop a habit of finding excuses. We have to be realistic. You can’t even learn a musical instrument without experiencing a certain amount of discomfort. Both extremes should find a schedule and learn to stick with it. Once a rhythm is discovered, make changes slowly. Another good idea is to ask the more experienced players how they deal with minor pains and distractions.
Plateaus and routine.
The next big hurdle comes when the first is cleared. You’ve discovered a plateau in your progress. Not that you’re the best in the room, but you’re decisively not getting better or worse. Jiu Jitsu is largely about analyzing patterns, and you don’t seem to be figuring out any new ones. Now, you’re supposed to hit this point, but you’re also not supposed to stay here. You will have to be patient with your results. I will start with the free options, and go from there.
Do not just go through the motions. Re evaluate your routine. Everything. Even a black belt can always learn to shrimp better. Try to place your hands and feet in exactly the right place. The details matter!
Try something different in your game. If you play guard, focus on passing for a while. Look for something to add to your best game. Don’t know where to start? Ask an upper belt what connects with what you do.
Evaluate your daily habits outside the gym. Sometimes your attitude can sink if you don’t eat right, sleep enough, or drink too much, etc. Be honest with yourself on this one. Make your changes gradual, positive, and permanent.
Plan limited time off, and have a set return date. Don’t fall into the habit of stopping when things get tough.
Visit your friends at other gyms. Once or twice a month, get a new outlook from different people. Talk to your instructor, and he will likely recommend a couple places.
Go to a seminar, or invest in a private lesson. You will get a carefully prepared look at the game from an expert point of view.
Get out and compete. Nothing will jolt you out of a routine better than having someone challenge your best game. Figure out what works, what doesn’t, and rebuild with purpose.
Sometimes, you lack even matchups.
It can get lonely at the top, but someone has to be there. Other people can face isolation in the crowd too. The only girl, the only big guy, the extremely small, can all get frustrated with the lack of even matches. All of the ideas from plateau burnout can help, but being isolated actually adds more options.
If you’re the best in the room, you should be teaching everyone how to give you a challenge. Do the same thing over and over again. It gives others a chance to recognize the pattern, and offer novel ideas. Even new white belts will eventually do some cool things. Not competing at this point may be doing yourself a disservice.
Maybe you’re just the biggest in the room. You will have to learn how to measure and control your pressure against certain people. But, you should also have a few guys who can handle a heavy dose of gravity. Appreciate them, smash them, and encourage them to share what they do. The more you develop these two things, the more diverse looks you will get. Competing a lot and knowing the best gyms to cross train at will also help.
If you’re the only girl, or even a small guy, you will have the opposite problem. But you will need the same approach as the big guy. Learn how to safely handle pressure. Make it a priority. Pick your training partners carefully, and work to understand what you do. Again, compete as much as possible. And get to know the community so you can cross train effectively.
Our low points make us appreciate the high points more. All of the top players at anything have found a way through the burnout phase. And yes, it can last for months. Set a minimum expectation on yourself for a bad week. Sometimes showing up is an accomplishment, and you will still improve on your worst day more than sitting at home.