Optimal Recovery for Jiu-Jitsu Athletes

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While many of us are getting back into the swing of training regularly and competing again, injuries are imminent. I should know because I’ve spent the last four weeks nursing a calf muscle strain since supplementing strength and conditioning with my BJJ training.

No one likes going to the doctor nor the time it takes for your self-diagnosed recovery to heal, especially BJJ practitioners. Thankfully, there are many options for athletes to rely on to help with recovery from tough training and injuries. The most popular amongst athletes that I know or follow on social media include: cryotherapy, compression, chiropractic, and float therapy.

Since I’ve been injured, I’ve been fortunate to be able to add many more of these options to optimize my healing and recovery time. While it can get kind of pricey, it has been well worth the money spent on trying therapies that have sped up the healing process so that I can get back on the mat much quicker.

During my recent trip to Austin, Texas, I dropped into Restore Hyper Wellness + Cryotherapy, a well-known recovery spot for some of the area’s high level competitors like Brazilian Fight Factory’s Kody Steele and the Tackett brothers.

Since it was the first week of my injury, I opted for compression sleeve therapy and local cryotherapy to reduce the inflammation in my legs from the strain and from overcompensating with my good leg.

I started with a 30-minute compression therapy session for my legs. They had options for other areas such as hips and arms; however, legs seem to be the most popular for compression therapy. Using sequential pulse technology, the NormaTec Recovery System (from the same company as HyperVolt massage gun) combines three techniques to speed the body’s normal recovery process: pulsing compression, gradients, and distal release. Think of a blood pressure cuff for your legs but so much better. It maximizes circulation throughout the body, relaxes the muscle and connective tissue, and mimics therapeutic pressure to reduce tenderness and alleviate soreness.

I then moved on to local cryotherapy after my legs were both relaxed. Local cryotherapy is used to reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling in targeted areas, as well as increase mobility. It is comparable to icing, which isolates a particular area to trigger an anti-inflammatory response. A local treatment takes about 5-10 minutes, which is similar to the amount of time it takes to do home icing. However, local cryotherapy feels much better, as it gradually increases in coldness over time. After one session, most of the pain I had been experiencing was gone and the swelling in my calf had reduced tremendously. I could even walk fairly normally (without a limp) out of Restore.

My leg felt so much better after those treatments that I went back a second time during my trip. Local cryotherapy was not available during this time; however, I was able to still do compression therapy as well as add Photobiomodulation Therapy (PBM), otherwise known as Full Body Light Therapy. PBM uses near infrared light (NIR) to reduce pain, inflammation and edema, and drastically aid recovery. It works at the cellular level, stimulating repair and normalizing cell function. PBM has also been shown to lessen overall pain levels while stopping pain sooner. It has also been linked to increased cerebral blood flow and brain energy metabolism, which ultimately could lead to diminishing symptoms of major neurological disorders. While I did feel a difference after PBM, I have been told that you see much better results after a second session.

When I got back to Washington, I found a Restore Wellness not too far from my house. I went to their website and discovered an offer for a VIP day where you get one service for free and another for 50% off. Although my injury is at about 75% healed, I definitely want to take advantage of this deal and try the other services that they offer such as infrared sauna, stretch therapy, full body cryotherapy, hyperbaric chamber and IV drip.

Although many of these therapies can be pricey, there are definitely ways to save. Check Groupon, ask for first time specials, or go with a friend who is on a membership program. Honestly, that is how I got in the door with the float spa that I am a member with. I bought a Groupon but was offered a first time special during my first visit. In the end, I saved and it paid off to be able to try it out for as long as I needed to (while saving money) before committing to a membership.

If you’re working hard in the gym and your body feels like it’s taking a beating, you definitely need to take care of your body and treat yourself. After all, you can’t put a price on recovery — especially if you’re over the age of 40 and still train like you think you’re in your 20s. If you want to be training well into your “sunset” years, you need to start adding in more recovery options into your regimen. If not, you will indefinitely become injury prone and possibly end up having to stop training because it is too rough on your body.

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