What Do You Do About Those Pesky “Off-Days”?

By Joshua Rozenboom

How many times have you gone to the gym, and the moment you hit the parking lot you think to yourself “I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE”.  You know you’re going to have to push harder than you feel like going. Everyone is tough; there are no easy rolls. The new white belt who wrestled in college is going to smash you again. Maybe you’re even in a plateau with your Jiu Jitsu, where it feels like your training partners are progressing, but you’re just standing still.

If your answer is “Never! It’s always a great day for Jiu Jitsu!”, then good for you. There are those of us, however, who sometimes just have an off day. It might be a mental difficulty, where you doubt your ability or your desire to train. It might be a physical problem, a fear of worsening an injury or a lack of energy. Whatever the source, we’ve all struggled with this problem.

So, what can we do about it? The best thing we can do (but perhaps most difficult) is to let it go. Let it go. Turn away and slam the door. If you now have that song stuck in your head, you’re welcome. Carry it with you and let it keep you company as you analyze the minutia of your daily performance. Remember that sometimes we get really caught up in a holistic examination of our Jiu Jitsu based on our day-to-day sparring, when realistically our sparring rolls shouldn’t count towards much other than improving our application of Jiu Jitsu.

Now, this is assuming that you’re not a competitive athlete, in which case keeping track of your performance and health is imperative. That aside, there are many factors that affect our Jiu Jitsu from one day to the next, and we feel them all because we practice an art that puts us in close contact with the mechanics of our bodies.  Prior to training, did you ever notice how tiny changes affect your energy level, speed, your endurance? You eat a cheeseburger or drink half a beer on a Friday night, and Saturday’s open mat becomes an exercise in willpower.  Or you train too hard all week long, possibly even throwing in some supplementary gym time, and suddenly you go from a passing machine to turtle guard master.

Regardless of the reason, off days are still generally better than days off. It’s more valuable to show up, drill, learn technique, and roll lighter or for fewer rounds than to stay home. However, don’t mistake the occasional off day for a series of problems that need to be addressed. A habitually poor diet and even small weight gain can cause inflammation and affect our cardio. Nagging pains that you keep trying to “work around” could be a symptom of a larger problem, in which case it’s wiser to see a doctor or physical therapist than to try and wait it out.

As with any endeavor that requires long-term commitment and constant practice, there will be peaks and valleys, ebb and flow. Appreciating the overall experience will keep you happier than over-analyzing the occasional bad day and thinking that you just “suck at Jiu Jitsu”.  At the risk of sounding cliché, it really is about the journey.