Should you Sleep? Or, hit the gym?

This question comes up a lot. Am I going to get something from heading to the gym and pushing my body even if I’m exhausted?

You’re super active, taking class and rehearsing every day. Squeezing in that extra workout might not be the best choice. Watch the video, or read below.

When to rethink your workouts:
1.You’re getting less than 8 hours of sleep in a night…

Sleep really should be a main priority (especially if you’re still growing – but even if you’re not). If you’re waking up at 4am to get to the gym before company class you’re likely skimping on sleep. Finding the time for rest and relaxation should be a priority. When you overdo it with the workouts, you’re potentially taking energy away from class, rehearsals and performances. When you don’t get enough sleep, hormones are impacted.

Your body will overproduce ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and cortisol (the stress hormone) and underproduce leptin (the appetite suppressing hormone). Here’s a study that backs this up.

2. You have a really busy rehearsal or performance schedule.

When you’re crazy busy and you’re still trying to cram in gym time, it may just not be worth it. If you feel like you’re running around like a chicken with your head cut off, ask yourself : “Is it really going to be worth it to add something else to my plate?”

Remember that when you’re already dancing for hours, you’re using a lot of energy. If you add additional exercise to this, you’ll potentially get to a place where you need extra food to satisfy yourself. You might get home ravenous and lose control or binge.

What’s the cost vs. benefit of squeezing in that workout?

3. You have a side job where you’re also on your feet.

If you work in a restaurant or cafe or do something that requires you to be on your feet for more time after you’ve already been dancing, it might not be worth it to add in a workout. You have to include that on-your-feet time as activity and remember that after all that, it might be time to sleep.

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Some days you might feel better than others in terms of doing something extra. Think about what you’re adding. After all that time on your feet, is it going to be helpful to go to the gym and knock out some cardio? Probably not. If you’re up for it, some weight training might be of benefit. But again, not if you’re spent.

4. You don’t have time to meal prep and prioritize healthy eating.

If the amount of running from one thing to another is preventing you from putting together healthy meals, it might be time to rethink your schedule. Food is more than 80% of the equation in keeping your body healthy and energized. It’s also the key component in weight loss or maintenance.

If you can’t meal plan or prep because you’re spending all your free time at the gym, something needs to be adjusted.

5. If you’re not taking a rest day at all…

You shouldn’t be exercising or training 7 days a week. If you’ve gotten in this habit, pick a day to let it go. If you still wish to be active on that day, go for a walk or do something outside with a friend.

6. You want your sleep at night to be consistent.

Sleep should be relatively consistent. You don’t want to go from going to bed at 8pm some nights to 11pm others and wake ups should be pretty consistent as well. If that’s being altered to allow for late night or early morning workouts, you’re doing more harm then good.

7. Pay attention to signs of fatigue.

If you’re in class and your muscles feel heavy and weighted and you don’t feel energetic, you might be getting fatigued.

An article in Time magazine discussed the sleep vs. activity question. “People who think they will operate well on little sleep, have usually gotten used to operating on little sleep.”

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So it’s possible you’ll lose the connection to what it feels like to be truly rested and restored from a good night’s sleep.

8. What can you skimp on besides sleep?

If you’re determined to get those workouts in because you’ve found an activity routine that works for you and enhances your dancing, what besides sleep might you cut back on? Maybe TV or screen time could be cut back. Where are you wasting time that could be allocated to healthier habits instead?

Make a rule for yourself to put the phone away once you’re home. You really won’t miss much – I promise! Try one of those apps that tracks your screen time (I use one called Moment) and commit to turn the phone off once you’ve hit your daily quota.

When to Choose Sleep over Cross Training

Jess Spinner

Jess is a former professional ballet dancer turned Holistic Health, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Coach for high level dancers. She founded The Whole Dancer in 2015 after identifying a greater need for balance, wellness and support in the dance world. Since The Whole Dancer was founded, Jess has worked with 100's of dancers worldwide at top companies and schools. She has been featured in or written for Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine, Pointe Magazine, and Dance Spirit Magazine.

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