Most instructors, motivators and ‘experts’ will tell you to train, train, train. Today I am going to tell you the exact opposite: there are some days when you shouldn’t go within a hundred yards of a mat. The trick is figuring out which days those are.
Let me start with silly story time: a few years ago I got invited to a sparring session with a couple professional MMA fighters (don’t ask me their names – I won’t tell).
I’d just had a really crappy night’s sleep, but accepted the invitation anyhow. During my trip the gym, however, I had this feeling of doom: it wasn’t nervousness per se, I was just not happy about the upcoming sparring session and was sure that something was going to go wrong.
As we were lacing up the MMA gloves I mentioned that I wasn’t really well rested and that I had a premonition that I was going to get injured. Both fighters laughed and told me they’d been out partying the night before so they had probably had less sleep than I.
The sparring went OK at first: I was getting hit a lot, but sort of holding my own. In the fifth round my opponent tried to kick me: I caught his leg and charged forward, knocking him down. I followed him down to the ground in order to stabilize the position, and planted my nose directly on his knee: CRACK!
As the blood trickled out of my broken nose and down my face I told myself: “I knew I was going to get injured!”
As it turns out, the broken nose was actually the LESSER of two injuries. A few minutes later I went to the washroom and was surprised to see the toilet bowl turn red: at some point I had gotten punched, kicked or kneed so hard in the kidneys that I was actually peeing blood. Lovely!
Since that day there have been several times when I was about to go to training but didn’t because I had the same feeling. On these days my unconscious mind took stock of my physical and mental condition, the training environment and my likely training partners and came to the conclusion that training was not the right thing to do.
I’ll never be able to prove that taking a break on those days prevented disaster – perhaps I could have trained and been perfectly OK. On the other hand, if I can avoid an unnecessary injury then I will get more, not less, mat time in the long run.
Learn to recognize when your spider sense telling you that something isn’t right. And then respect it.