This story originally appeared in the October/November 2014 issue of Pointe.
Between class and auditions, rehearsals and performances, it may seem like there's not enough time in the day to fit in cross-training. That's why many dancers swear by hitting the elliptical or their yoga mat early in the morning instead of hitting snooze. Aside from fitting your workout in, research shows that jump-starting your day with physical activity (as opposed to hanging out in a split before barre) has a whole host of additional benefits.
When you cross-train in the morning…
- You're more likely to stick with it. If you wait until the end of a full day of dance, it's easier to skip the gym since you'll already be exhausted.
- Your body may burn more fat. A study published in The Journal of Physiology found that a group of men who exercised before breakfast burned fat more efficiently than those who exercised after eating a heavy breakfast. This may be because the body burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates when you exercise on an emptier stomach.
- You might sleep better. Researchers at Appalachian State University found that adults who worked out at 7 am had 75 percent deeper sleep and 20 percent more REM cycles than those who waited until the afternoon or evening to exercise.
Make It Happen
Are you ready to make working out early a priority? If you plan your morning the night before, you're more likely to set yourself up for a successful day.
- Mark your calendar. You wouldn't skip out on a doctor's appointment you've had on your schedule for months. Similarly, when you pencil in your gym time, you're more apt to follow through.
- Invite a buddy. When you know your friend is waking up early to meet you at the gym, you're less likely to bail on your cross-training plans.
- Get to bed. Though it's never good to scrimp on sleep, it's especially important to wake up feeling rested when physical activity is first on your list.
- Lay out your clothes (and any special shoes or equipment you'll need, like a yoga mat) ahead of time, so you're not rifling through your dresser for a sports bra at the crack of dawn.
- Pack your bag with anything you'll need for your dance day if you're going straight to the studio afterward.
- Prep your breakfast. Don't forgo the first meal of the day in order to fit in a workout. Instead, pack a portable breakfast, like a homemade smoothie made the night before, or yogurt, a granola bar and fresh fruit.