I love training for competition almost as much as I like competition itself - I love the hard rolling sessions, purposeful drilling, and competition focused energy.I have been training and competing jiu jitu for almost 7 years now and I don’t want to stop, like ever. But, as I settle into my mid-30s, the way I approach training now has shifted somewhat from when I started. I have to be smarter. Now at the ripe age of 36, this is how I approach training before a big tournament:
I need to actually warm up
I used to be able to show up at open mat and jump right into hard rolling. Now, I seek out 1 or 2 light rolls before I find my most competitive rolling partners. It just takes me a bit longer to rev up to full intensity and my joints respond better to hard rolling after they are warm.
I am selective about my training partners
I believe that it is good and valuable to train with everyone. There aren’t many people who I flat out avoid training with all the time. But now, especially leading up to a competition, I want to make sure that the majority of my rolls are with training partners that most closely resemble those in my competition bracket. I try to train with more women, with more people around my size and skill level, and with people who present challenges similar to those I am facing in competition. If I am having trouble passing spider guard in tournaments, I need to go train with people with good spiders.
I also try to minimize my higher risk rolls - those who use excessive force, spaz out when they lose position, move quickly without purpose, or crank on submissions. I need to save my muscles and joints for more productive rolls and also reduce my chance of being injured at the tournament.
Take hard/easy days
Back when I was a blue belt, I used to roll ten, 6 minute rounds every day. Now I still have marathon training sessions, but I just can’t do it every day. I alternate between hard training days and easier days. On days that I am sore and my joints don’t feel great (usually from very hard training the day before), it is tempting to stay home and rest. Instead, I go to class and seek out light, technical rolls. I almost always benefit more from drilling and rolling light than not training at all.
Pay attention to recovery
Epsom salt baths, good nutrition, adequate sleep, and massages are helpful. Cutting out sugar is one of the best things you can do.