While some people can train jiu-jitsu every single day and never get sick of it, most of us are only human. Even if we genuinely love BJJ, there may be days, weeks, or even months in which we feel like we’re just “over it.”
Going to the gym feels like a chore. We don’t feel like we’re making any progress, and every minute feels like an hour as the clock winds down to the end of class.
No, you’re (probably) not permanently losing your love for jiu-jitsu, and you’re definitely not alone. BJJ burnout is a real thing, especially for people who maintain a consistent training schedule over a long period. Just as you may get tired of your favorite foods if you eat them every day, or just as you’ll still need some alone time even if you live with someone you enjoy spending time with, you might need a break from jiu-jitsu now and again to ensure that you continue to enjoy it.
There’s a “no slacking” mentality often present in BJJ culture that makes many students feel like they’re letting someone down or failing when they choose to take any amount of time off from training. Needing some time off specifically due to burnout is treated as weakness, and many students keep showing up to train out of a sense of obligation or guilt. These often become the students who push themselves past their own limits and end up injured or resentful of the sport. Some find that their love for jiu-jitsu becomes permanently damaged. They may even leave the gym one day and never come back.
This is why it’s so important to recognize the difference between a few consecutive days of being run-down and unmotivated and being genuinely burnt out from your time on the mats. You may be experiencing BJJ burnout if:
- You aren’t just unmotivated to go to the gym – you dread going.
- You constantly find yourself wishing class would end faster.
- You’re bored or irritable during class regularly, but not outside of class.
- You find it more difficult than usual to learn new techniques.
Again, a few days of this may simply be something you need to work through. And of course, there’s something to be said about pushing through the “don’t wanna” and still showing up to train even when you’d rather be at home relaxing.
If this feels like more than a brief period of exhaustion or boredom, though, take it seriously. This lull may be your body and mind telling you that they need a break or that you’re overtraining. And frankly, if you’re not getting paid to train, you should listen to them. Even if you are a professional athlete, you need to have the opportunity to recover; otherwise, your career may meet a premature end.
If you recognize or even just suspect that you may be suffering from BJJ burnout, that doesn’t mean that you have to keep pushing through something you’re not enjoying, but it also doesn’t mean you have to quit jiu-jitsu forever to feel happy again. Instead, try these strategies for reducing burnout so you can have fun on the mats again:
- Take a break. No, not just a couple days off. Give yourself time to truly miss jiu-jitsu by spending a week or two away from the gym. Spend that time doing something else you enjoy or catch up on the work or errands that weigh on your mind while you’re at the gym. Set a specific return date so you don’t get permanently lazy, and see if some time away is enough to recharge your BJJ batteries, so you feel better when you come back.
- Cross-train. Visit another gym. Hell, visit three other gyms. Sometimes, the monotony of training in the same place with the same people every day of every week can dig us into a rut. Testing your jiu-jitsu against other opponents with different skill sets can reignite what made you fall in love with jiu-jitsu in the first place. Cross-training regularly is fun in the best of times, but when you’re feeling burnt out in jiu-jitsu, it can be the perfect remedy.
- Modify your training. Sometimes, the way you’re training can be the cause of burnout. If you’re hyperfocused on specific techniques or have been rolling to the death, take a step back and focus on what makes jiu-jitsu fun. Be selective about your rolling partners, even if that means taking “easier” rolls so that you don’t leave training feeling like you got hit by a bus. Go to more open mats. Play around with new submissions. Get creative and see how you can create a “new” training environment within the one you already have.
Finally, if your lack of enthusiasm for training feels like it’s extending into other parts of your life, it’s worth checking with your doctor to see if you might be struggling with something bigger, like depression. Losing interest in once-beloved activities is a key depression symptom, and your doctor can help you find ways to manage your mental health so you can get back to having fun in jiu-jitsu.
Jiu-jitsu is never enjoyable 100 percent of the time, but pay attention if you start experiencing burnout symptoms on the mats. You’re not weak or soft for finding that you’re not enjoying your time in the gym as much as you used to, and your happiness and progress are worth the experimentation that’s sometimes needed to ease your burnout and get you back to rolling like you used to. It’s better to take a break or try new things than to quit the sport forever, and the latter is exactly what might happen if you ignore your brain’s signals that you need to switch up your routine. Sometimes, a little time off or a change of scenery is the key to recovering your love for BJJ.
Averi is a brown belt under Nick Hughes of Trinity MMA and an ambassador for Grapple Apparel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @bjjaveri.