Mental Fitness For Jiu-Jitsu Athletes During Quarantine
Postponement of competitions, gym closures, and social distancing has changed the way of life for athletes around the world and created a feeling of uncertainty for those who live and breathe the jiu-jitsu lifestyle. A physical workout can help pass the time and stay in shape during quarantine, but Jiu-Jitsu Magazine talked with a sports medicine expert and professional athlete about why mental health and stability are equally important.
“Athletes are all individually different and are dealing with this pandemic in their own ways, but routines and goals are important in being a high-level competitor,” said Cory Baker, a licensed professional counselor who specializes in helping athletes deal with mental health issues. “It can be difficult to stay focused and motivated when your normal routine is broken and there is no set finish line to aim for. With jiu-jitsu championships, it is even more difficult to train since many fighters have timed training regimens leading up to events in order to peak at the right time.”
2018 Super-heavyweight world champion Mahamed Aly says he is confident that all of this will be over soon. Aly explained to us that in his case, he needs to stay physically active in order to stay mentally healthy.
“I have been doing drills at home, working out and cycling every day to keep my cardio leveled up,” said Aly. “I need to burn energy. I keep reading and studying, but I do at least one training per day. Be it cardio, workout, or jiu-jitsu drills. I’m sure this will pass and soon we will start training as before. A crisis always gives us opportunities to learn a lot and to realize things that in our daily routine we do not value as we should.”
Baker believes now, more than ever, is the time to focus on positive things. He explained that when people face struggles, they can choose to view them as obstacles or as opportunities. Some of the negative psychological effects that athletes are likely to encounter during quarantine are anxiety, depression, and self-doubt. Baker says these feelings come from the uncertainty of when things will normalize and that it is hard for an athlete to stop training and competing when it is a large part of their identity. He also explained that it is common for athletes to wonder if they are training enough and fearing that their competitors are training harder than they are.
Here are a few other mental health reminders from Baker, a blue belt in jiu-jitsu, for athletes during the coronavirus pandemic:
- Be grateful. Think of three things every morning that you are grateful for.
- Spend some time with your family. Not just time, but quality time. This is a chance to strengthen relationships with those around us.
- Trust yourself. Your athletic abilities might suffer a little but so will everyone else’s.
- Do what you can when you can. Run, bike, drill with a dummy. You can’t do your normal routine, but you can do something. View each aspect of your training regimen as a challenge to overcome, like a rival competitor. Be creative and invent solutions. This will keep you as physically healthy as possible and keep you mentally focused on a challenge.
- Work together. This is an opportunity to support each other and rise above what’s happening together. Support fellow athletes and encourage them, offer up suggestions when you find something that helps you.
- Get help if you need it. There are resources out there when you need help and it’s important to seek it early.
“Thoughts drive emotions; emotions drive behaviors,” said Baker. “If we spend our energy focusing our thoughts on the negative aspects of this quarantine then negative emotions will follow and our moods and actions will suffer.”