How to Know If Your Body Needs Sleep or a Workout


I wish I could tell you that there’s always just one right answer to that age-old dilemma “I’m feeling tired and I only have enough time for more sleep or a workout, not both.” Here’s the thing. It really does kind of depend.

I know that my “it depends” response is not very helpful at 6:08 a.m. when you’re trying to decide between one more snooze cycle or resetting the alarm for 8 a.m. It doesn’t help at 4:58 p.m. when you’ve been stuck in front of a computer all day and you’re trying to decide between zoning out or working out. It doesn’t help when you are torn between a nap and a jog on a weekend afternoon. You’re tired. You need some energy. But you need some sleep. But you want to work out. But you’re tired. Just. So. Damn. Tired.

Right now, especially, when so many of us are practicing social distancing, our day-to-day lives and routines have changed a lot, and this can make it even more difficult to decide between sleep and a workout. Maybe you have less time to work with because your kids are at home with you. Maybe you’re not sleeping well because of everything that’s going on right now. But you’re extra invested in maintaining your routine because normalcy feels so good (and both exercise and sleep are so important for health!). Look, I get it. So I’m here to help disentangle this decision-making process so that you feel equipped to do what you need to do for your mental and physical health and well-being.

For me personally, it depends first and foremost on what type of tired I am. (By the way, nothing says you’re over 40 like having categories of tired, and I’m proudly 42, with just about that same number of delineations for fatigue and feeling tired.) Some types of tired I know right off the bat will necessitate sleep, while other types scream, “Take me for a run!” Those are the far ends of the spectrum, though. It’s all the points in between that make the decision more complex.


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