“Tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen, pour yourself a cup of ambition and yawn and stretch and try to come to life…”
If those words sound familiar, they should! They’re the fantastic opening lyrics to Dolly Parton’s “Nine to Five“ and are in many of our workout playlists. It’s also how many of us start our day. No matter what’s going on in our lives, the 5:30 a.m. gym alarm is a constant.
As dedicated followers of fitness, we’re fully invested in doing what we hope and believe will make all our efforts worthwhile. This includes eating clean, training hard, supplementing, and reading informative articles such as those found here and the testosterone-infused SpotMeBro. But could it be we’re doing more harm than good by being slaves to an alarm?
Many have weighed in on the topic: scientists, sports researchers and even those influential stalwarts of fitness, the celebrity trainer. It’s time to get a definitive answer; should we sleep in or should we sweat it out?
Benefits of Sleep
We’ve all clawed our way through a workout on a lack of sleep. They are as much fun as being trapped in a room with a vegan CrossFitter. We can’t just walk away, be it from workouts or wackos; quitting isn’t in our DNA. At the start, we think it won’t be that bad, but before you know it, we’re hoping for the sweet, sweet release of death.
And it’s not just about being an early riser. Biologists and researchers working with athletes make it clear sleep plays a critical role in performance. A consistent lack of sleep and the ensuing fatigue can affect performance, reaction times, recovery, metabolism, weight loss and much more. This is great news for those of us who only have meaningful relationships with weights.
Without a significant other as an excuse for having early nights, we can blame it on science. Getting seven to nine hours, a night is crucial if you really want to see progress. So, if you’re setting an alarm for 5:30 a.m., be sure to hit those sheets by nine. Maybe 8:50 p.m. if you plan on some pre-sleep cardio!
Benefits of Exercise
We all know the benefits of exercise. In addition to making us healthy, it also gives us the kind of bodies that other people want to touch. A lot! For many of us, workouts have to fit around the stuff that either pays for the gym or makes it necessary: work, relationships and children. That often means a workout first thing while the rest of the carefree world is sleeping.
After inhaling our body weight in “come-to-life” juice—a protein shake followed by enough pre-workout to rouse an elephant—before heading off to the gym. The benefits of an empty gym and starting the day pumped are many. You can do drop sets and pyramid sets without looking selfish, and your gym crush won’t see you throwing up between sets on leg day.
We’re also less likely to indulge in self-destructive behavior when it comes to food and sleep when we exercise early in the morning. The discipline required in getting up and going carries over into other areas of our lives. We may still send that message to our ex, but we’re less likely to inhale an extra large pizza hoping to fill the empty space inside with hot cheesy dough.
Be the Early Bird, Not the Early Worm
Both sleep and exercise are important in your fitness journey, neglect either to your detriment. Without enough sleep, all your efforts in the gym are equivalent to wearing a padded bra, you’re really only fooling yourself. However, this is not an excuse to throw out the alarms; don’t exercise, and you’ll soon turn into one of the pillows you so eagerly cling to each night.
Skipping either sleep or exercise is a surefire way to avoid making gains. When life gets in the way causing you to have late nights, it’s better to grab those extra Zs. Head to the gym or get out for a walk later. The moral here is to get enough sleep each night so you’re fresh and ready to crush it in the gym each morning. Remember, there’s two of them in the early bird parable, and no-one wants to be the worm.