If you keep training jiu-jitsu long enough, you’re eventually going to train yourself into a rut. It may happen a few months in, it may happen a few years in, but at some point, it’s going to happen. Sometimes, this rut comes about from overtraining, sometimes it happens because of the environment you’re training in, and sometimes, it’s a result of draining life events or a mental illness like depression.
The sudden feeling of falling out of love with jiu-jitsu can be jarring if you’ve only ever experienced that enthusiastic, bright-eyed love for it. Sure, we all have days of training that are better than others, but really feeling burnt out can be concerning… especially if jiu-jitsu tends to be your main source of emotional release.
I don’t know if this is any comfort to you, but the good (?) news is that this probably won’t be the last time you feel BJJ burnout. And, if it’s any encouragement, you are far from the first to go through this.
Burnout is common for tasks that feel like (and are) work, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen while doing something you love. Most people who practice their hobbies enough to steadily improve on them hit a point at one stage or another in which they simply don’t wanna anymore, and jiu-jitsu is no different. Keep in mind, too, that BJJ is physically and mentally demanding. It takes a special kind of person to want to put your body at risk of chokes and breaks multiple times throughout the week. And while, yes, it’s lots of fun, it’s okay to acknowledge that sometimes, you just want to do something, anything, other than training.
While there’s something to be said for showing up to train even when you’d rather just sit on the couch and watch TV, it’s also important to acknowledge the difference between just feeling lazy and feeling completely drained. In fact, gritting your teeth and training through burnout might make you feel like you’ve earned an A for effort in the short-term, but in the long-term, you could end up doing significant damage to your passion for BJJ. A brief period of burnout is manageable, but the more it builds, the more you really may grow to resent the sport you fell in love with.
If you do feel like you’re burnt out, take some time away from the gym. No, not just a day or a weekend, but a whole week, at a minimum. Set a return date for yourself, or if you feel like you can’t predict when you’ll want to come back, set a date to check in with yourself. When that date comes, ask yourself: do you miss jiu-jitsu? Are you eager to get back on the mats? Does the discomfort you feel with forcing yourself to stay away from the gym outweigh the discomfort you know you’ll feel when you start rolling again? And if not, why do you think that is?
Hopefully, all you need is a break. We all need breaks from the things and people that we love, no matter how much we love them. The important thing to remember is that needing some time away doesn’t make you a slacker or a failure, and it usually doesn’t mean that this negative feeling toward jiu-jitsu is going to last forever.
Frankly, I think it’s healthy to acknowledge the times when we aren’t head-over-heels in love with BJJ. Our relationship with the art really is indeed a relationship, and it’s natural to feel a range of emotions before, during, and after training. I’ve been angry with jiu-jitsu when I watch my friends get taken out for months due to injury. I’ve been heartbroken by it when members of the community have disappointed me. I’ve had moments when I’ve been in love with it — when I’ve won a big match or landed a cool submission — and moments when I’ve simply loved it for the frustrating, but necessary lessons it’s taught me.
Be kind to yourself. You are not a machine. You don’t need to constantly crave your favorite food to know that it’s still your favorite food, and you don’t need to constantly be excited for jiu-jitsu to know that you still love jiu-jitsu. Let yourself have a break sometimes if you need it. Don’t despair, thinking that this is the end of your passion for a sport you “once” loved. Understand that these fluctuations in enthusiasm, passion, and enjoyment are normal, and sometimes all you need to do is recharge. You may realize that all you really needed was a chance to miss the mats.