I’m a morning person. Most of my life I would get up early before work to exercise. And it wasn’t a chore. That was my time. I enjoyed it. But as I’ve gotten older my sleep has also become more important to me. So I have a new rule. I won’t get up to exercise if it means I’m setting the alarm before 5:30am. I’ll make an occasional exception.
That means I’m not getting in as many or as long workouts as I used to in the morning. And it’s taken some adjusting. I prefer exercising in the morning. I’ve had to learn to try to fit in exercise in the afternoon. But here’s the thing, I wasn’t feeling good. The workout felt fine (once I get moving I always feel better), but by the middle of the day I was drained.
A friend of mine said, “I think working out in the morning is making me fat.” It may sound laughable, but I related. I was so tired from getting up so early to work out that by midday I found myself snacking on anything I could to stay awake. The snacking was defeating the workout. I have a hard enough time making healthy food choices, being tired didn’t help.
This was a hard choice for me—selecting sleep sometime before exercise. I have another friend who says, “If I can sleep or be skinny, I choose skinny.” It makes me laugh. And I get that desire, but I’ve grown to require sleep to function. I’m not a great sleeper so I appreciate sleep. That friend is a good sleeper. It makes a difference. If I still slept soundly, I think I could get up in the morning every day and work out. I’d be revitalized. But I don’t so I have to make different choices for my body and my sanity. If I’m still asleep at 5:30 in the morning I need to sleep.
Also, though I’ve never slept through an alarm (knock on wood), getting up early for workouts disrupted my sleep. I’d toss and turn watching the clock scared I’d forget to wake up. I still don’t know why that fear exists—for something that has never happened about something that doesn’t matter. If I slept through my alarm and missed a workout I’d be okay and the friends I’m meeting would get over it.
So sometimes I pick sleep over exercise. It’s been a really conflicting decision for me, but eventually if you don’t sleep you don’t get a choice. My naturopath told me that one of her mentors said it’s okay to use sleep aids with clients because if you can’t get them to sleep you can’t help them. Sleep is what enables us to heal and repair. We need sleep.
So was exercising in the morning making me fat? No. Skipping out on sleep was making me groggy. And then nothing I did felt good. Workout times are different for everyone. We all require a different amount of sleep. Take a look at what works for you? Are you better working out in the morning? The evening or afternoon? Each has its up and downs. But it’s a matter of what can fit in your schedule and work in your life. The answer may change over time. And you may find there is a better pattern than the one you are currently engaged in. Movement it vital to a healthy life, but so is sleep. It comes down to finding the right balance of both.