Balancing Work and Training Leading Up to a Major Competition

bjj-hand-raisedI’m now three weeks out from NY Open. This is where things get tough. Stepping up the training, and still managing a few trips, conference talks, research paper deadlines.

Time is not necessarily the issue here. I choose my priorities carefully, but of course even having one passion is enough to fill every minute of every day. I do the things I love and that make me happy. Right now that means two things: (1) research and (2) grappling.

Do What Makes You Happy

The biggest challenge of balancing work and training leading up to a major tournament is staying mentally focused and motivated. I have to take my body to the limit for 1-2 hours a day and then go home for 8-10 hours programming behind the computer with the same level of dedication and focus. Day after day after day. Again, the only way any incredibly taxing schedule of that sort is manageable is if it’s something you love. And indeed, it is something I love, and the moment I don’t, I stop doing it.

Gene Zannetti from Wrestling Mindset has a mindset video up that recommends before competition you focus on the things that you’ve always loved about wrestling, and not let any of the pressures of the actual tournament creep into your mind. His list (starting at the 2 minute mark of the video) is a good one and reflective of a good wrestling mindset:

  • The hard, the challenge of it.
  • The 1-on-1 combat nature of the sport.
  • Breaking the opponent, making the other guy tired.

These are some of the same reasons I love competing as well, but I would expand that list to include technical mastery. I love drilling the crap out of a technique until it becomes effortless so I can pull it off against a stronger, bigger, younger, better conditioned opponent. In other words, I love the “art” of it as well as the “heart” of it.

Sources of Stress

Throughout the training process, there is a lot of room for stress to creep in. I have to be very alert and aware of anything that’s making me at all unhappy, and figure out immediately how to remove that negative source of stress. In the past, for me, the #1 source of stress has been cutting weight. If all I did was train and sleep, then cutting weight would be a lot easier. But as sleep goes due to deadlines and work in general, the mental wear of a strict diet grows exponentially. So I was faced with a choice: don’t compete or don’t cut weight. I decided to remove the thing I hate, and keep the thing I enjoy. I moved up a weight class (I’m now about 12 lbs under) that allows me to eat as much as I want (still everything healthy, but amount is less restricted). It’s more important to remove stress, than to compete against smaller dudes. Winning is not done at the tournament. Winning is done in the years, months, weeks leading up to the tournament. And to make that process optimal, I have to enjoy the hell out of it each and every day.

A lot of times I hear advice about surrounding yourself with positive people and “removing” negative people from your “circle”. Perhaps I’ve been lucky in life, but I’ve really never encountered a person who hasn’t made my life better in some small or big way. There are a few cases when I was put under a tremendous amount of stress, but even in those situations I’ve gained so much from the experience, and am forever grateful for that. Actually, more often than not, I feel like I’m not giving back enough to my friends who are incredibly patient with my occasional bullshit.

Anyway, time to embrace the grind. Back to work…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *