Time. Apparently a problem for 38% of people. That's what I found when I asked fellow jiu jitsu practitioners what their biggest strength and conditioning challenge is. It was the biggest challenge of all. We all want to train more jiu jitsu. Some of us may also want to add in strength training. Yet, where do we find the time?
This article shares my ideas on how you can use your time to fit in more training. Whether it is strength training or jiu jitsu.
Also, why the Pink Floyd song 'Time' below? No reason other than, I love Pink Floyd and thought it would make a cool 'soundtrack' as you read this article.
1. Speak with your partner
Speak to your partner before you increase the amount of training. By making them part of the decision process you might be surprised by the response. Explain why the training is important and if you can get their support. This could be short term, for example leading up to a big competition. I've done this recently leading up the Masters Worlds and my wife was super supportive. Often you can offer a trade off in return, i.e. committing to more time with them or the kids when you're not training. Give it a go.
2. Be more time effective at work
If you work in a job that you're not constrained to working specific times, there may be things you can do. Be honest with yourself, how much time do you waste; just checking emails, checking the news, going on Facebook, grabbing a coffee, chatting about the weekend with colleagues, etc, etc? Are there processes, tasks you use all the time that you could improve to be more time effective? Could you start 30 minutes earlier to finish on time to make the evening training class?
I use something called the Pomodoro Technique. Pomodoro means tomatoe in Italian and was a technique first developed by using a tomatoe kitchen timer. Essentially you set a clock for 25 minutes focus 100% on your task then take a 5 minute break when the timer goes. Then repeat. It is recommended every two hours you take a longer break of 15 to 20 minutes.
It is much easier to say no to distractions when you only have to focus for 25 minutes. Its much less daunting. Turn the phone off, don't check email, put headphones in and go for it. If someone tries to ask you something just say 'do you mind if I just finish this off first?' You'll be amazed how much more work you can get done.
Just one example, although if possible with your work, try challenging yourself to be more time effective to free up slightly more time to train. I trained jiu jitsu with a friend in London who is an Executive Director for one of the largest private banks in the world, a very demanding job. Yet, he managed to make it to training 5 days per week. If he can, maybe you can too.
3. Cut out the crap
Yet, how do some people manage to get more done than others. OK, not every person is in the same situation. Some jobs are more demanding. Some people have longer commutes. Some people have more family commitments.
Although try this for one week, write down each day how much time you spend on non essential tasks. For example, the average American watches 5 hours of TV per day and the average adult spends 1hr 16 min watching videos on digital devices.
What are you wasting your time on? Could that time be spent more effectively? Even if not training, could you watch jiu jitsu technique videos?
This links closely to point 2, although worth specific discussion. Just one example, when you check social media 'quickly' on your phone, it sucks you in. Suddenly 15 minutes have gone. Could that 15 minutes have been spent on getting your work done and the getting out early to hit the gym.
Record where time your times goes over one week. You'll be surprised. Remember, you make time, you don't find it. Its up to you how you spend it.
4. What's important in your strength training
An ideal workout....we don't live in an ideal world.
Understanding what's important in your strength training for jiu jitsu is key. Then you can focus in on key aspects. The main aspects you need to work are core stability, core rotation, hip drive, leg extensions, upper body push and upper body pull. You also only need to train them once or twice per week too.
If you strip down your workout to the absolute bare bones, you can probably get a full workout done in much less time than you think. Let's say 30 to 45 minutes. If you did that twice per week, you'd see huge improvements. The other way to do it is by looking at your weaknesses. Focus on strength training that will most help your jiu jitsu. Cut everything else out.
5. Supersets for strength training
Pair up your exercises, do one immediately following the other, then rest.
6. Time your strength training
- Set a timer for your rest between sets. Usually between 1 or 2 minutes. When the timer is done, go straight onto your next set. You can find out about optimal rest intervals for strength training here. Works very well when doing supersets.
- Set a timer for your overall workout. Only have 15 minutes? Set a timer and challenge yourself to get as much done as possible. It changes the mindset, you'll find ways to cut out time and be surprised by how much of a good workout you can get done.
Again, we don't always have the ideal amount of time. Although a solid 15 minutes is far better than 0 minutes of strength work.
7. Location, location, location
Typically that is determined by location. Is it near home? Is it near work? On the way to work?
You'll progress more going to a jiu jitsu school with a good instructor 5 times per week, than only getting to a school with a great instructor 2 times per week.
The same applies if you're using a gym. Try to set yourself up as best as you can so it is easy to get to and from training.
8. Strength training at home
Zero commute. Never a queue for the shower, hopefully. No need to pack your bag.
I've trained exclusively at home for about 5 or 6 years now, maybe even longer. I can't remember. The only exception here would be the odd strength session at a jiu jitsu school, or a very cheap gym I had near my old office. Yet, 95% of the time I've trained at home.
You don't need that much equipment either to start off with:
- A pull-up bar that hooks into a door frame ~$30
- A pair of gymnastic rings ~$40
- A kettlebell ~$70 to $100
They're all one time costs and with this equipment you can work all major strength movements for jiu jitsu.
I've already written an article too on what weight kettlebell to buy for strength training.
9. Get up earlier to strength train
Get up earlier.
Just 20 to 30 minutes earlier, before the kids get up, crank out some pull-ups, dips and kettlebell swings on your new home gym and your done. Do it before breakfast as apparently training in a fasted state is good for your hormones. Something I've heard, although can't find the research on it.
Find it harder to get up early?
Go to bed earlier.
Or, first learn how to optimise your sleep for recovery from strength training, then......go to bed earlier. Cut out that last 30 minutes of TV, put the phone away and try to go to bed earlier. It can be an absolute killer at first, though give it a few weeks and you'll quickly get used to it.
10. The sneaky pre/post jiu jitsu strength workout
Even just a pull-up bar will do.
When I haven't been able to get a proper strength workout in, I'll get to jiu jitsu 15 minutes early. I would then crank out supersets of pull-ups and pistol squats, followed by push-ups supersets with core exercises.
You could even do this as a longer term strategy, especially if you have good equipment available. Each of these days get in 15 minutes early, or stay 15 minutes after class.
- Monday - kettlebell swings supersets with pistol squats, 2 to 3 sets
- Tuesday - pull-ups supersets with push-ups, 2 to 3 sets
- Wednesday - no strength work, just jiu jitsu
- Thursday - same as Tuesday
- Friday - same as Monday
Your leg muscle are much bigger, so may take more time to recover. Hence putting them further apart. Again this is not ideal strength training for jiu jitsu, yet a simple workout like this can make a huge difference in your performance.
11. Multi task to recover from strength training
Recovery and mobility often gets overlooked when time gets shorts. Yet, its very important to properly recover from strength and jiu jitsu training. I'll often foam roll sore parts of my body when watching TV at night. Or I'll sit there and stretch etc. Again, not ideal, although much better than not doing it at all.
12. How much strength training do you need?
I've even been asked by people who are very experienced strength trainers themselves. The answer is no.
Typically I have two full strength sessions per week, with one lighter recovery strength session if I have time. If you know how to properly strength train for jiu jitsu, you'll know more doesn't mean better.
With a well planned program, most people will only need to strength train twice per week. Also, if you focus on the key movements for jiu jitsu strength training you can probably get a good session done in 45 minutes.
Conclusion, how to make more time to strength train
Remember, time is one of the only things you can't get more of. Be very careful how you spend it.