I’m old. Not quite foot in the grave old, but more past than future old. I knew taking up Jiu Jitsu in my 40’s would be a risk; I’m relatively injury prone, too.
My list of non-Jiu Jitsu related injuries includes: blown achilles, torn meniscus, dislocated shoulder, shattered humerus (not the funny kind), transected radial nerve, herniated discs (plural), dislocated thumb, several broken fingers, arthritis in my knees, hips, shoulders, and I wear glasses. Ok, the last one is not an injury but it completes the picture, doesn’t it? I’m old.
I have all these excuses to take up golf or pickle ball some other gently athletic, incredibly boring endeavor. Everyone would understand why I would shy away from something like Jiu Jitsu. But deep down, if I did that, I think I would be accepting some kind of defeat, some kind of white flag to life. I find that thought disturbing.
A combat sport at this stage of life certainly risks further injury. But with age comes a little wisdom (only a little) and I know keeping active as I age won’t just keep me physically and mentally fit but ultimately increases my longevity.
There’s still things I want to do, see and experience, and I still have plenty of time if my mind and body cooperate and if I continue to train and take care of myself. I like to stick to some basics because life is complicated enough.
Get a good night’s sleep
My first and favorite is getting enough sleep. I think your well being starts with good sleep. The nerds at Sleep Foundation agree and recommend at least 7 hours of sleep for good physical and mental health. Less than 5 hours a night could point to other problems that don’t get better with age. If that’s true for you, see someone about it. (Like a doctor, not some quack on social media.)
I didn’t have a sleep game until I talked to a doctor and sleep specialist who pointed out some simple things to improve the length and quality of my sleep. Shout out to the VA sleep shop!
When I don’t get enough sleep, I feel it, I express it, I look it and most notably, I’m less likely to train. If I do manage to train on less than 5 hours of sleep, the quality of training is poor to put it kindly, and the likelihood for injury increases. Sleep better, train better.
Keep a good diet
Second, a reasonably healthy diet. I would love to say my diet is pure, but in reality, my diet is “mid” as the kids say. There are actual people that study diets and food for a living (they’re called weirdos) but I’m thankful for their knowledge. One such weirdo, Lisa Valente, Registered Dietician and editor to Eating Well says eating fish, complex grains, and high protein foods are essential to longevity via a healthy diet.
Some days, I’m tracking healthy eating well and other days I fail miserably. It stands as my biggest area of improvement. I think the key here becomes:
1. When you fail in your diet, don’t beat yourself up too much about it.
2. Celebrate eating well by training.
“Celebrate by training?” (LOL. OMG. WTF? SMH. MK. TTYL.)
Hear me out, hip cat. When I eat well, I feel energetic, sharp-witted and spry. Why not capitalize on those benefits and get better at Jiu Jitsu or Muay Thai?
When I eat well, I can’t wait to train! I think about what I want to work on, I’m tuned into class, I’m focused on details, I’m more disciplined in sparring rounds and I am genuinely having fun.
Strange how something like food can effect your mentality, but it does. So, take advantage of all those benefits and get to the mat. Don’t waste it by having a “cheat meal” or a Twinkie. Go work on side control escape, double leg takedown, loop chokes or whatever you need or want to work on. You will improve when you train on a healthy diet! Eat better, train better.
Lastly, and perhaps more difficult than eating and sleeping well is stretching. I have a handful of large muscle group stretches that I do relatively consistently – 3 to 4 times a week – but could do better. As we know from the geeks at the Center for Healthy Aging at Colorado State University, daily stretching helps to increase range of motion, flexibility, and blood flow to our muscles and aids in the reduction of stress. When we don’t stretch, they tell us, muscles become shorter and tighter, which can lead to a reduction in range of motion and flexibility or even increase risk for injuries.
How many times have you heard or said that you can’t do a certain technique because you’re “not flexible enough?” That’s me! I still say it! The difference now is I am trying to work on it instead of simply saying, “I’m not flexible,” like some miscreant that knows the problem and solution but won’t fix it.
You can be flexible. Even just a just little more flexible. The secret isn’t necessarily stretching (even though it is); the true secret lays in having the discipline to take a little bit of time to actually stretch each day.
Alternatively, the consequences on the mat of not stretching can lead to injury and more time off the mat. My goal is to get a simple routine and stick to it, daily. Stretch better, train better.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is its requirement for both mental acuity and physical prowess. I claim neither, but I’m dedicated to improving both for my own personal well-being. My improvement begins before I step foot on the mats with better sleep, better diet and stretching.
Keep rolling, my friends!