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Friday, July 31, 2015

The Ultimate Exercise Dilemma

Time for a nappy nap
As I sheepishly ordered a large organic French roast, fatigue overtook me and I wondered whether even this gargantuan caffeinated goodness could work its invigorating magic.

Whether you’re a distance runner, heavy lifter, or even yoga devotee, you’ve confronted this existential dilemma I faced that afternoon: Workout or nap?

The latter seemed too path-of-least-resistance easy: Shut my office door and curl up on the sofa. Or swim upstream and sluggishly push through my workout.

Had a client expressed such a dilemma, I would become
her loving-but-tough cheerleader, gently reprimand her for complaining, and help her cultivate a mental toughness to push through fatigue.

I would also remind her sufficient sleep impacts performance, fat loss, and overall health.
That afternoon, I needed to take my own advice.

Fitness pros aren’t perfect. We sometimes struggle to meet sufficient sleep or manage seemingly herculean stress levels. For me, juggling numerous personal-training clients with managing another business plus social engagements means I don’t often meet my sleep quota.

So I caved and napped.

Granted, my surrender wasn’t completely wasted. Studies show naps can actually benefit you. One found a 30-minute or less nap increased wakefulness and improved cognitive ability and performance. And a NASA study found a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.
Duration becomes important. Anything over, say, 45 minutes could cut into your nighttime sleep, though cut your nap too short and you potentially negate its benefits.

One study found just 10 minutes worked best, resulting in “significantly improved alertness and cognitive performance relative to a no-nap control.”

I found other studies that argue exercise could produce similar physiological effects to a short nap, with experts like Dr. Michael J. Breus, author of Beauty Sleep, calling naps “exercise for the brain.”

Why not do both? Rather than trod on the elliptical machine or take an hour-plus class, get a 20-minute nap and do 20 minutes of burst training.

If that’s not possible – meaning, you can’t do the workout and nap – go for the workout.
But chronically needing to nap and feeling blow-off workout lethargy could be masking deeper problems. Consider:

Does your napping cut into your nightly sleep patterns?
Does a nap leave you refreshed or groggy and dosing on caffeine to wake up?
Does your morning java jolt leave you crashing mid-afternoon?
Is a gargantuan, carb-heavy lunch giving you a mid-afternoon crash?
Are you more productive after a nap or does work become more burdensome?
Does a short nap help you subsequently work out better and more efficiently?
Are you addressing underlying problems that could be making you tired, such as thyroid issues, damaged metabolism, and adrenal fatigue?
Are your naps spontaneous or pre-planned? The Sleep Foundation differentiates between planned, habitual, and emergency napping. Know thyself.

Ultimately napping becomes like coffee. A little bit can be therapeutic, but over-relying it to cover up adrenal burnout, fatigue, and other issues. Naps, like caffeine, can become potentially detrimental crutches.

Let’s say you’re consistently getting eight – okay, seven – hours of consistent, uninterrupted sleep nightly. You’re not using naps to avoid deeper issues, but you want to flirt with a short afternoon snooze without committing.

I would suggest setting aside 30 minutes, set your alarm so you don’t oversleep, and curl up to sleep. Weekends become a good time to test-drive napping.

You’ll need about a week to decide whether naps benefit you. If you find you’re sleeping less soundly at night, you’ll want to forego them. Ditto if the hour after you awake means groggily struggling to become cognizant.

If, on the other hand, 20 minutes of shut-eye makes you more productive and energetic, by all means stick with it.

Whatever you do, don’t use your nap as a pretext for not working out. I cut a deal with myself that sleep-deprived afternoon: I can work out; I can work out and nap; but I can’t just nap.
I did both, and felt fabulous afterwards.

Do you nap because of its benefits or because you don’t sleep enough at night? Share your thoughts below or on my facebook  page.

You have permission to do so, free of charge, as long as the byline and
the article is included in its entirety:

Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!
© 2015 Jinifit, Inc.

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