For many of us, fitness and sleep are mutually exclusive. If you want to get enough sleep, working out just isn’t possible. However, if you ask an expert, you’ll learn that you really can’t have one without the other. Alekha Engineer is a certified personal trainer from Premier UK and also a certified rehab trainer from Rehab Trainer Australia. Alekha primary conducts one-on-one functional training sessions using bodyweight, TRX, resistance bands and pilates. We reached out to her to understand the connection between two of our favourite things, fitness and sleep. “If you aren't getting enough quality sleep (a minimum of 7 hours) your fitness goals will suffer and if you aren't keeping fit you will find it harder to get quality sleep.” Alekha believes in balance when it comes to physical fitness so it’s fine to indulge in a cheeseburger every now and then as long as you balance it out with regular workouts.
You’ll be happy to know that when it comes to crunch time and you need to decide between an extra hour of sleep when you’re seriously sleep deprived versus a quick workout, Alekha says pick sleep. “You want to focus on sleeping well, eating well and keeping active. However, if pushed to choose between getting adequate sleep and getting in a workout I would opt for sleep. Poor sleep will affect your immune and hormone systems subsequently affecting your mood, energy levels and appetite, so compromising on sleep in the long term will leave you with a poor base upon which to work on your fitness.” Alekha says she tries to work out five times a week doing three days of full body strength exercises and a couple of days of HIIT cardio or running. Finding something that suits your body is the most important thing says Alekha, each one of us are built differently. “Some of us are built to run long distances whereas for others, strength training works better. Overall, I find short high intensity workouts very effective and you only need about 20-30 minutes a few times a week. You can find loads of easy at-home workouts online or on fitness apps that can help you get started.”
Already intimidated? Well don’t be! Alekha herself has struggled with sleeping well, even while working out almost every day! “I've struggled over the years with sleep myself and I've found several things work for me. The first is to eat your last meal of the day three or four hours before you intend to sleep. Second, switch of all phones, TVs, iPads and sources of blue light an hour before you sleep, switching to a book works best for me. Finally, I would definitely recommend doing some form of exercise for 30-45 minutes per day, even walking is great.”
Building good habits is the best way to create a long-term lifestyle that will keep you healthy and balanced. “I try as much as possible to stick to these night time habits, a regular sleep routine and aim for eight hours of sleep per night. There are of course days that I sleep an hour less or more but I try not to compromise on sleep as much I can.”