Most people over 50 may not think of a contact combat sport like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as the first option to get back into shape, but for me, it has been the perfect path. While I have never been at risk of being approached to be an Abercrombie photo model, every year after 40 left me feeling a little softer and less hopeful that I could turn things around. After two years of training at Like Minded Jiu-Jitsu however, I feel like I am in the best shape I have been in since high school soccer. I am down 25 pounds just bought some pants with a waist size I have not seen since I was 12 years old! You won’t add muscle bulk like a 20 year old, but you will see some tone improvement and maybe a vein or two in your forearms. I can hang with the younger members on most physical challenges and it makes me feel good.
So what makes Jiu-Jitsu such a good choice? Well for me, I have to have something I enjoy doing as my workout or I just won’t do it. Yes, I am weak; say it again and I will choke you out. Seriously, I have come to love the sport so much that I train at least 5 days a week. I don’t have to get motivated to train, I have to get motivated not to leave work early to train more. Jiu-Jitsu reminds me of a chess game, with a physical aspect to it. For every move there are three counter-moves and then there are three counter-counter-moves. After two years I still see a move every week that amazes me with its beauty, grace and deadliness. Besides the challenge of the complexities of BJJ, there is the relief from stress that comes from the complete exhaustion after rolling with my partners. You could pour me out the door after class no matter how bad the preceding workday was.
There are downsides of course, the sport is tough on an old man’s joints, and I do not recover as fast as my younger training partners. On the balance though, it is well worth the sacrifice and less damaging than many of the alternatives. Here are a few thoughts on dealing with training in the second half of your life:
- Stretch before but more importantly, stretch after. This helps me avoid the tightness and pain.
- Drink tart cherry juice (Hi-Health) daily to reduce inflammation. Ibuprofen works better but repeated use can eat holes in your stomach. Save it for when you really need it.
- Add something to your workout routine that works the muscles that aren’t used as much in BJJ. Without this you can unbalance your body and create structural problems that manifest as pain. I prefer Sport Kettlebell for this; come visit us for a demo session. Consider Yoga.
- Choose your training partners wisely. Having a partner that is looking out for you is critical. That is one of the best things about Like-Minded Jiu-Jitsu…we all take care of each other.
- Tap early and often-don’t be a macho man, those days are behind you. A few more seconds of fighting off a submission isn’t worth a few weeks missed recovering from a sprain or tear. Give up submission if you feel your partner getting frustrated. Don’t let their testosterone spike become your injury.
- Watch out for your eyes. As we age the inside of your eyeball shrinks and eventually will naturally separate from the retina without damaging your eyesight. Any contact sport can accelerate this but you need to be conscious of it. Get checked for a detached retina if you see floaters around the edges or flashes and sparks. Properly treated it’s no problem, untreated can be very serious.
- Train less with more recovery days… if you can stand to miss class.
- Bring your kids if you have them, great family bonding time and let’s face it, what parent hasn’t wanted to choke their teenager?
Let us know if you have any questions about getting started or if you have a tip to add to this list!
See you on the mat!