The Importance of Body Movement for Combat Athletes
In this article, we reach out to the Head Mobility Coach at CMBT Training Centre Brit Cook to explain the importance of body movement for combat athletes and how you can start including active recovery into your routine.
When we consider the importance of prioritising body movement for combat athletes, we’re not just including the physical benefits received from the work we put in, but we’re also improving and nurturing the energetic, mental, and emotional aspects of our life.
“Work smarter, not harder.”
Your mind and body as combat athletes are consistently under stimulation from physical training, exposure to muscular growth stimuli, tissue breakdown and repair, being mentally and physically pushed to boundaries, and also challenging the CNS (Central Nervous System) when stepping into and out of the comfort zone. Just as importantly, it also needs to soften, be nurtured, and have the opportunity to relax, repair, and regenerate. So collectively and equally important , the mind and body need to prioritise and find a balance of movement versus rest, in order to appropriately balance their growth capability. They are both intimately connected, and being introspective and listening to what your brain has to say is ultimately what is going to affect the way you think, feel, grow, perform, and recover.
So, what are the benefits of moving your body daily?
- Blood circulation: the heart pumps the blood -> red blood cells carry oxygen and nutrients throughout the body -> white blood cells increase immunity -> blood flow transports free radicals/waste products out of the body
- Increased and variable heart rate -> strengthens the heart -> controls blood pressure
- Provides stimulation to the lymphatic system via the vibrational blood pump of each heart beat, breath and diaphragm expansion, and overall body movement, which pumps lymph throughout the body
- Stimulates neurochemicals that increase your mood and ability to feel good, improve mental clarity and cognitive function, and regulate your ability to absorb and manage stress
- Promotes restfulness and sleep as the body requires recovery and repair in response to the movement you give it
As humans, we were not made to be stagnant, and sedentary. We were made to survive, and we do a great job of doing that - sometimes to our detriment! The body innately knows that moving is good for it. Whether you’re aware of the breakdown of benefits to moving, or whether you just feel good when you move your body, the general idea is that movement = a good idea.
What kind of ways can we move the body?
- Foam Rolling (if you don’t have a foam roller, you already know who has the best kind)
- Strength & Conditioning, Calisthenics, Weight Training
- Sports (cue our obvious favourites: Jiu Jitsu, Striking, MMA)
Each time you choose to move, you are honoring the energetic and psychological demands you have. This means cruising some days, pushing hard others, deloading, and resting. Adjust according to your physiological demands.
Maybe you’re used to three sessions a week, or you’re struggling to force yourself to one session a day, or maybe you’re an athlete conditioned to three sessions a day! Maybe you’re a few months in and still creating habits and routine, or last week was deload week but you unintentionally rolled into a deload fortnight. Whether you’re a beginner, a hobbyist, or a dedicated athlete, you absolutely need to know what your individual balance is, so that you can create a solid foundation of fundamentals that include discipline, consistency, and creating a healthy foundation for the long exposure of growth.
There comes a point where you achieve a maximal load optimal for your body before you start to burn out. Whether that’s achieved via psychological demands or stress, training fatigue, DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), overtraining, or overall burnout, your body innately knows that it needs to just chill. This will be an individual and ever-changing learning experience for you to observe and account for when considering how much energy you have for your movement. Understand that time and availability are not the only key contributors to what movement is available to you.
Maybe you just really love training, and you’re trying to get an extra session in, but you can feel yourself burning out. Maybe you’re stressed with work, your personal life, and training is just too much for you at the moment, or it’s too late in the evening with your new work schedule, and you’re not getting enough sleep to recover. This doesn’t mean forgoing that extra session you crave, but it does mean being smart and efficient and perhaps doing a low intensity session, or some active recovery, over a third sparring session of the day.
To touch on a sensitive subject very briefly, as it is such a complex and individual experience,
I think it would be a little naive to neglect the elephant in the room regarding movement: COVID-19. The obvious challenges and stressors include the chance of getting sick, lockdowns and the challenges they bring on their own, and the constant mental stress brought from the change to our way of life and routine.
I’ve personally been pretty fortunate in my circumstances where I’ve had minimal disruption to my movement availability through the changes that life has brought from lockdowns and life changes/restrictions . Even during the lockdowns I’ve endured, I have still been able to go outside for sunshine, go for walks, and do home workouts.
If you are currently in a lockdown, or are in an environment where lockdowns are recurring for you, now is the best time to consider your movement options and prepare for action. As mentioned before, perhaps movement is exactly what’s missing from your life in order to feel and function just that little bit better.
Now that that subject is out of the way, let’s talk about our training vs life demands.
Sometimes our training priorities outweigh our personal lives. Sometimes the scales we have been working so hard to balance in regards to our energy output and regeneration start to tip or bounce back and forth.
Being stagnant and throwing your routine, discipline, and goals out the window because you can’t stick to your ‘usual’ routine, doesn’t mean you have to forgo movement altogether. Choose the appropriate kind of movement for what your body needs.
Consider pairing your daily sessions with active recovery, here are some examples:
1 hour striking + 1 hour mobility flow
90 mins BJJ (drills & flow rolls) + 20 mins steady state cardio on the bike with nasal breathing
1 hour grappling (drills & rolls) + 20 minute sunshine walk
AirDyne sprints + 1 hour grappling drills
1 hour S&C + foam rolling
When we start to prioritise our movement for the physiological and psychological demands we have, it reminds us, and highlights the importance to us, to honour what our body needs. Whether that’s more movement, less movement, or more efficient movement; it’s all about improving our relationship with our body. The performance improvements naturally come with that, once we learn to listen to the body, and move efficiently.
Find and combine the movement that works for you, and break up your high and low intensive sessions for maximum results. As a mobility coach at an MMA Gym, it is just as important for my ability to perform as an athlete, as it is for my ability to be a coach, that I optimise my movement efficiently.
Your mind and body are one organism, neglecting to balance your mental and physical health is an impact you can’t afford to create. Be kind to your mind, eat, sleep, move, repeat.
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If you liked this article and want to see more epic content from Brit Cook the Owner of First Flow & Mobility Coach at CMBT Training Centre, follow her Instagram @britty.cook or click here to follow her on Facebook.