Train Hard (and Smart), Fight Easy
By Ryan McKinnon

Martial artists know the principle of ‘THFE’ all too well. Bleed in the gym so you won’t have to in the ring (cage). Your training should be harder than your fight. But training hard isn’t enough. Training hard can lead to injury, fatigue, and major burnout. There is a magical sweet spot where smart and hard training meet. Identifying that place requires experience and the guidance of a good coach.

Training hard is easy for the most part. Shut down the mind and bang out reps. Put your head down and ‘giver’. Training smart is hard and requires a specific attitude. You have to be in the moment. You must be self aware, and completely abandon ego. You have to accept that you will never be perfect; the life of a martial artist is a never- ending cultivation of skill.

My advice to the young athletes out there is to embrace the principle of “Train Smart.” Enter the dojo everyday with the intent to become better at your craft by learning the principles designed to make you better at a given technique. Here are a few tips to help you avoid overtraining.

Change levels. If your upper body is sore, train your lower body. If your lower body is sore, train your upper body. No need to hammer the heavy bag with kicks if your calves, shins, and ankles are beat up. You’ll end up doing further damage, and lose training time.

Drilling. If your body is a complete mess, that would be a great time to drill some new techniques with a partner. You can practice the techniques slowly, and build speed as you become more comfortable. Drilling a new technique is one of the most efficient ways to add it to your sparring.

Don’t spar. Sparring while injured is just dumb. Some people will tell their sparring partners where they are sore. But in the heat of the moment, your partner will forget what you said, and strike that area, to no fault of their own. We are trained to attack openings. You can’t blame your sparring partner for hitting you. That’s what sparring is for. If you do decide to spar, make sure it’s with someone with an experience level that will help you, not hurt you.
Aerobic training. Forrest Griffin, one of the toughest men in MMA, said in an interview that when his body is beat up, he goes into the gym and does aerobic training. Raising your body temperature and heart rate to an aerobic level is great to eliminate soreness from the body. Hop on a stationary bike, or shadow box. Here’s how to calculate your aerobic range. Take 220 and subtract your age (ex: I’m 34. So 220-34=186). You’ve now discovered your maximum beats per minute. Second, you need to find your aerobic range, which is roughly between 55-85% of your maximum beats per minute. Take that number (for me it’s 186) and multiple it by .55 and .85 (186x.55=102. 186x.85=158). Now you’ve discovered the aerobic range to work within. As you exercise, take breaks to find out if you’re working within your range by checking your pulse for 15 seconds, then multiplying that number by 4 (Ex: 15 second check gets 30 beats. 30×4=120. This means I’m working within the lower end of my aerobic range). Going over 85% of your aerobic range means you’re now doing an anaerobic workout, which isn’t helping your soreness.

Sleep & Eat. Your two greatest allies to help heal your body are rest and nutrition. If you’re not getting enough sleep, your body isn’t healing. Plain and simple. Your body repairs itself while you sleep, not while you’re awake. As an athlete, you need more than 6 hours of sleep a night. And you need good food. Avoid inflammatory foods that have processed sugar and flour. Eat foods rich in protein and slow digesting carbs to help heal your body faster.

The above tips are general guidelines to work within if you’re feeling overtrained. It helps to consult your doctor, or a specialist in the field of sports medicine and physiotherapy to help address your specific needs. Listen to our podcast episodes with Drs. Marco and Paolo DeCiantis and Funk Roberts to get a better idea of how to avoid overtraining. Submit us your questions and concerns, and we will make sure to ask them when our guests rejoin us for future episodes.

I hope this article helps you on your journey to becoming a better martial artist and fighter. Train Smart, Fight Easy!!

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