There are some people who are completely obsessed with jiu-jitsu. They can train three times a day, then go home and watch jiu-jitsu, then think about jiu-jitsu until they shrimp out of bed the next morning to do it all again.
Most of us are, well, not those people. We don’t have the time, money, or physical and mental durability to maintain such a crazy BJJ-centered schedule. But even those of us whose dedication to jiu-jitsu ranges from “casual” to “casually intense” can get burnt out, and if we want to maintain our love for the sport, we need to address it.
BJJ burnout can happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, jiu-jitsu becomes such a fixed part of our routine that it turns into a part of our daily “rut” instead of the cure for it. We show up for the same classes, see the same people, and drill the same technique until we can do it in our sleep. Yes, this is good for us in many ways, but it can also be draining.
Negativity can also work its way into our jiu-jitsu journeys and poison our experience. Maybe you’re dealing with gym drama or even thinking of switching gyms entirely. Maybe financial strain in your life is causing academy fees to become another stressor. Injuries, frustrations with techniques or learning plateaus, and competitive failures can also turn a once-positive experience into something that feels emotionally exhausting.
The supposed “dream” of having jiu-jitsu infiltrate every part of your life can also wear you down. Look at your social circle — are all of your friends your teammates? Does your work overlap with jiu-jitsu or other areas of fitness? Does your entire family train? What happens when the hobby that used to be our escape becomes the very thing we need to escape from?
If you’re feeling burnt out from jiu-jitsu, you shouldn’t just up and quit, but the hard-headed advice of “just grinding through it” isn’t necessarily productive either. Most of us train as a hobby. Unless you’re a full-time professional competitor, you are under no obligation to show up every day if you’re miserable.
Here are some things to try instead:
- Take a break. Not a long break that puts you at risk for never coming back — just a week or two, or however long you think you need to really long to do jiu-jitsu again. Make it a deliberate choice rather than just “skipping class one day,” and have a set date that you plan on returning. This can give you some time away while still helping you stay disciplined and reminding you that you’re not quitting for good.
- Try a change of pace. If your schedule allows it, attend classes at different times than you normally do. Show up at open mat at another gym. Partner up with different people than your normal go-to teammates. Even something as simple as focusing on different techniques and positions can break the monotony that can put you in a jiu-jitsu rut in the first place.
- Focus on the positive. It sounds cliche, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in all the stress associated with jiu-jitsu, especially if you take on a position of leadership in the gym or your local community. Getting back to the roots of why you fell in love with jiu-jitsu can reignite the spark you once had. Write down a list of why you started and why you’ve kept up with it. Seeing your reasons laid out in front of you can help the negativity become less prominent and bring some emotional balance to how you feel about BJJ.
- Examine your environment. Many cases of BJJ burnout are temporary. Sometimes, however, the cause can be your gym’s environment, which unfortunately is unlikely to change. Sometimes, a gym environment can be flat-out toxic — bullying from teammates, controlling behavior from a coach, or harassment (sexual or otherwise) are all huge red flags that should tell you to find another place to train. Or it may just be that your gym isn’t serving your needs anymore. If your academy is very competition-focused, but you’re a more casual practitioner who craves a laid-back environment (or vice-versa), you may find that your burnout will fix itself when you go somewhere that meshes better with your goals.
- Visit the doctor. If all else fails or you’re exhibiting other concerning mental or emotional symptoms, make an appointment to get a mental health screening. A loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed is a classic sign of depression, and if left untreated, it can have serious negative effects on various aspects of your life. This is an especially good idea if you’re also experiencing an inability to focus, irritability, memory loss, fatigue, or feelings of hopelessness.
Even the most dedicated athletes sometimes get tired of the sport they love. You’re not a bad student or teammate for feeling burnt out, and you owe it to yourself to do what you need to fall in love with jiu-jitsu again.
Featured image by Trinity SP Photography