5 reasons you should take a break (why I did too)

Sometimes in sport, the best thing for you to do is to take a break, be it for a few days, weeks, months or in my case, years. This article focuses on some things which suggest you should be thinking about having a break for a while if they apply to you.

1. Not having fun

Ok yeah, training isn’t always fun, sometimes its a hard graft you have to go through to earn your place on the podium or to be the guy with your hands in the air after the final bell. But if the entire process is no longer outweighed by the feeling of winning, or if winning doesn’t give you kicks any more, then it might be time to thing about having some time out. If you’re in MMA perhaps try a new martial art and focus on that for a while or even stop fighting completely and try something new like track or weightlifting. Coming back afterwards might give you a new perspective on your sport and make the whole thing more rewarding.

2. Stress

There are factors we can’t control throughout all of our lives. Stress can reduce your performance and a heavy training schedule can prevent you from dealing with the problem. However, depending on your relationship with your sport, you might want to only reduce your training load rather than take a break as exercise is a great way of reducing stress. This is one just to bear in mind and it is down to you how you deal with it.

3. Loss of motivation

If you’re just turning up to training because that is what you do and you have a bit of a “Same Shit DIfferent Day” attitude, your motivation and drive is low and your performance will probably follow. You probably won’t be having fun and you’re probably looking for excuses not to train. If this is you, Take some time off until you feel motivated to get back into the gym/dojo. Make sure you communicate with your coaches, just upping and leaving can alienate people who have your best interests at heart. If you do build up the urge to train again, you’ll find yourself much more driven and focussed on a goal than you were before and you’ll fall in love with the sport all over again.

4. After a big fight

These next 2 are more practical reasons. If you are competing at a high level, you might want to think about taking a few days off at least after a big fight. If you’re training properly, you ought to have come to a peak not long before your fight and you’ll need a deload period of lighter training. This reduces stress on your nervous system as well as giving you a psychological break. It also allows your hormone levels to return to normal immediately after the fight as your testosterone is probably jacked. Once you’ve had few days break and a lighter week of training, you can then work off of that baseline to work up to a peak before your next fight.

5. Injury

This normally applies much more to the younger fighters. Unfortunately I’ve known a number of friends and family (myself included) who have decided that they are recovered enough to train despite doctors or physio’s orders and they end up with worse injuries. If you love your sport and you want to have a professional attitude, stop training and do your rehab properly (like the pros do) or you may well end up having to stop much earlier than you’d like. Going through the recovery process properly will increase your longevity and reduce the damage you take over time. This is especially true for concussions which can lead to very serious complications if not delt with properly.

My story

I took 2 years away from Judo after having practiced more or less every week for 12 years. I wasn’t finding the sport that much fun, I had not drive or purpose and because of that, I wasn’t going anywhere. I just quietly slipped out of training and stopped communicating with everyone (why I reccommend communication in point 3). However after a couple of years of focussing on other aspects of my life, I learnt how to motivate myself again and came back to train. I’d set myself a goal of getting my black belt and trained hard with determination for it and when it came to my grading, I won the line up in just under a minute and a half. The takeaway message here is if you need to: let it go and you may even come back better later on.

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4 signs you should change club.

In the career of a young, developing martial artist, or any sports person for that matter, eventually the decision of whether you should stay at your home-ground or move to pasteurs new. Here, from my experience and from the experiences of some of my friends, are some indicators that you should start looking for somewhere new to train.

1. Run out of training patners

Everyone develops at different weights when they’re growing up. I was always the heaviest at my club but not by more than a weight category. If however, you dwarf the other players you train with, it might be time to look for some other people your own size. Similarly if you’re finding your competetive success isn’t being mirrored by others and no one can touch you in sparring, it’s probably time to find someone who can beat you, otherwise you’ll learn nothing. Even if neither of these two apply to you, you might want to start training some nights elsewhere if you and all your friends have been training together for years, you know all each-others moves and every session ends in a stalemate. If this is you I’d suggest not necessarily moving, but at least finding some other sparring patners to train with who can change things up a bit.

2. Your objectives change

This happens at various develpmental stages. As a young national squad fighter judo was my life, I didn’t have particularly strong motivation to train but there was no reason for me not to train, I’d been training 3 times per week for the previous 8 years. After a break however my new objective was a black belt, I trained hard in a new environment with a goal in mind which I achieved. When I came to uni my new objective was to develop my coaching and it just so happened the club I joined had amazing technical classes and the head coach – Dave Horton-Jones was the gradings manager for the BJA so I had come to the right place to learn about coaching. My point is different clubs have different emphases. Some clubs train to create winning fighters, some to create technical experts and some just for hobbiests who enjoy the sport in their own time. If you always wanted to try MMA but the club you go to has you being beaten up every night, it’s not MMA’s fault, there are other club around which take a more light hearted approach. On the other hand if all you want to do is get your hands dirty and go home bruised up and your club never allows headshots, go find a new club.

3. Development

This really applies to competetive fighters. If you are winning fights in your league and you want to step it up, you will probably have to look at taking your training up a level. You might have been lucky and started off in a club with a great development plan and you can stay there, but otherwise you may well need to find a full time centre or a professional club. These can afford opportunities a weeknight club can’t like strength and conditioning coaches, access to nutritionists and managers if you’re really taking it seriously.

4. Bullying

This is a tricky one. If you’re being bullied where you train, the first thing is to tell someone, a coach or a member of staff who can take care of the situation. Judo coaches have to have learnt about safeguarding and protecting so the coach can be a good start. The trouble can come when its the coach that’s bullying you. When you’re depressed logic can be clouded somewhat, that’s just a symptom of depression. If you’re not willing to face up to the bully or tell someone who can deal with it for you, a good route out is to find a new club. THIS IS NOT A SHAMEFUL ACT you are not running away, you are simply removing yourself from a destructive situation. Psychology is key to success in sport and if you are being bullied, chances are your mental state is sub-optimal. Moving club is taking progressive steps to improving your development. It also gives you a chance to make new friends in a place which you can make sure has a better ethos than your previous home.

Often coaches will tell you when you need to move clubs. This is the sign of a great coach, who understands when it is time for his players to move on. Sadly, not all coaches are this honourable and some try to hang on to their star players. Don’t listen to rubbish about you being disloyal. Loyalty is a key trait for a warrior but not unquestioning loyalty. If your coach is trying to hold on to you because you will make you and his club look better, you ought to find somewhere new to place your loyalties. A coach’s job is to raise othe people up, not to use other people to raise themselves up. If your coach has told you to go or understood your reasons for making your decision to move, that is an act of courage on their part and in the future make sure you repay them with an act of loyalty: come back and coach at their club, hold master classes, promote them, whatever but recognise what they did for you in the past and how it got you to where you are today.

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