3 March 2016

Dealing with Illness

Injury is one thing that keeps you on the sidelines, but you are still able to attend classes and maintain training focus. Check out here for advice on what to do during injured periods.

Illness however is another beast entirely. It doesn't matter what you are ill with for my purposes here. You may have a cold or flu, have stomach cramps or one of the multitude of conditions that are either contagious or keep you laid up in bed. Either way you can't attend the gym and that is where some issues can arise.

Clearly you should be taking care of yourself and doing as the doctor orders as the first priority, but once you are well enough to focus but not well enough to train you have a few options to keep your mind in the game.
I recently caught the cold but it wasn't debilitating. I had a slightly running nose and a cough. Nothing to stop me physically train other than a very small hit on stamina. I did however stop going
Sick Marge Simpson
I've gone and caught the sniffles
to the gym. In BJJ and wrestling especially, participants are well within each other's personal space. Often there is less than a centimetre between each others face as we jostle for the dominant position. This proximity is ideal for germ warfare and as such if you are contagious you can't train and even being at the gym can be an issue as you can't stop breathing.

So as a good training partner I opted to stay at home until my symptoms cleared. That posed a problem for keeping my mind engaged with BJJ when not at the gym. I chose to spend time watching instructional DVDs and reviewing fights on YouTube but that isn't the only option.

This is one of the simplest things to do, grab an instructional video series and watch it while taking notes. When you return you can speak with your coach to clarify points and give the techniques a try. Stick with one area to focus on. Watching attacks from mount the entire time will ensure you maintain focus. Switching from mount, to side control, to back attacks, to leg locks, to take-downs etc is only going to ensure you forget everything. Stick with a theme and re-watch the same video to ensure it sinks in.

Physical improvements
When stuck at home sick there is no reason you can't work on your flexibility or balance. A swiss ball is a good investment and allows a lot of exercises for keeping balance and improving your core strength. Getting a good sweat up and stretching daily will surge your flexibility ahead. There were several techniques in my early days that I couldn't do due to poor flexibility. I spent a single week doing stretches for 20 minutes a day and improved well enough to do everything I was struggling with. They were still imperfect but I was in a position to at least do them close enough so I could work on correction.
Useful Tools
Inexpensive tools of the trade

A great tool for getting warm before stretching is the skipping rope as it is low impact high intensity training that works a lot of body parts. Hand grippers or a tennis ball are great for building grip
strength. Yoga mats and resistance bands can keep things mobile with light pressure. Don't stress yourself too hard here as the primary goal is to get better. If you spend your energy lifting weights at the home gym you will have less left over to fight off the flu. This will increase your time away which isn't ideal.

Self reflection
You can spend this time off to review your goals, take stock of motivation and review where you have holes in your game. The first two are more personal but stating your goals to your coaches is important so they can help you reach them. Finding holes in your game and listing areas to improve does several things. It gives you themes to choose your study videos. It gives you something to work on when you return, and a list of things to spend personal time with the coach to fix. It also feeds into your goals that you can mark off once achieved.

Illness is a pain but you can always find other things to do with your training time. Even if you can't physically move you should still be able to watch videos or take notes in between naps. BJJ teaches us how to get out of situations in which we are stuck. If you can't move what you want because your opponent has it trapped, move what you can instead. This applies to life as well, you may not be in a position you want to be, but you can take advantage of everything you can do. It just may get you unstuck and make you stronger in the process.


  1. Good advice. Nice to see the benefits of skipping laid out well too.

    1. Skipping is a key exercise for a good reason. Its simple but challenging, works your timing, builds explosive calf strength quicker than any other exercise and is killer at cardio. These are all great for martial arts and general fitness.