B.Since I teach gym class starting at 5:30am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I can wake up at the disrespectful hour of 4am three times a week. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s for a great cause. But after six years, it still hasn’t gotten any easier. If you had told my younger self that 6am would be like sleeping in a day, he would have laughed at you.
When clients talk to me about teaching the first few classes, they say, “Oh, you’re an early bird!” No. I am a night owl with early morning hours, I use coffee (and the adrenaline rush from my alarm that wakes me up every morning) to fly. Most nights I don’t go to sleep until 10:30 or 11:00 pm Many nights it’s much later than that.
I am well aware of the benefits of healthy sleep habits, but I just can’t seem to get it right. I’ve tried several times to go to bed earlier so I can get my full eight hours, but that puts me to sleep at 8 pm, which means I have to be in bed by 7:30. Yeah, it’s not happening. (Do you know everything I can achieve after that time?)
Due to this work/sleep schedule, I often find myself tired throughout the day and have energy issues when I exercise or skip workouts altogether. I know it’s not what a physical trainer should say, but it’s true. I should always you want to exercise, right?
Well, no. There was once (many moons ago) when he worked out seven days a week. I was doing Orangetheory, Pilates, and had a ClassPass membership that allowed me to take classes almost anywhere my heart desired. I felt immense pressure to exercise all the time because of my job. It wasn’t until my mentor (who is also the best physical therapist in the world) told me that I needed to rest two days a week if I wanted to see faster results, that I stopped doing it. I followed his advice, and you didn’t know it, it worked like a charm. I got in the best shape of my life that year. Rest and recovery is an important key. (Cue DJ Khaled.)
However, recently I found myself in a training slump with more rest days than work days. After some soul-searching, I accepted the fact that it was due to my lack of sleep and decided to do something about it.
I downloaded Gentler Streak, which is an app that uses sleep data from your wearable to tell you when your body is ready for more effort and intensity during workouts, and when you might want to take it easy. Gentler Streak not only tells you the level of intensity your body is ready for, it also suggests workouts you can do to stay within that threshold. (Note that you first need to wear your wearable to bed for a few nights before the app can accurately prescribe your activity level.)
My plan was to work out four days a week for two weeks and use the Gentler Streak app to tell me when I was ready for a workout, and how intense that workout should be, and when I should rest, to see if I could tell a difference in how I felt and how well my workouts went.
Right away, just knowing it was tracking my sleep encouraged me to end the night a little early. Over the course of my two-week trial, I averaged a 10 p.m. bedtime, which is good for me, and I also took a few naps here and there when I felt like I needed one. (I’m a big proponent of naps. The fact that we have to stop taking them as we get older seems unfair: I need them more now than I did when I was a kid.)
The morning after the night, the Gentler Streak app told me I got enough sleep for a challenging workout, so I took an Orangetheory class, which is high-intensity. At the end of the workout, the app showed me that I worked almost to the top of my threshold, but stayed within the parameters of what my body could handle.
A few days later there was a particularly rough night where I didn’t go to bed until midnight. When I tell you the 4am wake up call was painfulOh man! I was hoping to do a workout for myself the next day, it was my last day to do my fourth workout of the week, but the app advised me to take a rest day. Although I was tempted to move on, I heard the app. After teaching the class, I collapsed on the couch at noon and didn’t leave it until bedtime.
The next day, I felt rejuvenated and the app said I was ready to get moving again. However, he also said that my body was not yet ready for something like a HIIT workout, so he suggested that I do a short run outside. Without Gentler Streak, he probably would have gone back to full intensity instead of going slowly.
Total transparency: there was a day that I did not follow the instructions of the application. I did a HIIT workout when he told me to take it easy and got a bold notification that I was overreaching. And I have to admit that I found it more difficult to do the exercise, so it seems that Gentler Streak was correct. I appreciated that he took responsibility for my body and rest.
Overall, using an app to track my recovery based on my sleep habits and letting it dictate my workouts has been beneficial. I’ll keep up as I’ve found it to be quite accurate and it helped me understand my body’s capabilities and pay attention to where my energy levels actually are, not just where I want them to be. Going to bed earlier may not help me in the long run, but at least I know how to tweak my workouts when the night owl gets the better of me.