People challenge me to do stupid things and I do them. This was more a problem in my youth than now although The Primal Blueprint Challenge is evidence that I’m still swayed by peer pressure. (Disclaimer: I’m only saying the PB was stupid for me. I know lots of you love it and it is not a bad program.) Heaven help me when my kids discover that all they have to do is say “I challenge you” and I’ll do almost anything.
This predilection for idiocy was what found me one afternoon seated across from my burly hammer-throwing (who actually went to the Olympics but didn’t win) college neighbor about to have an arm wrestling contest. Being a gymnast, I thought I was strong and so when he challenged me to arm wrestle him, allowing me to use both my arms to one of his, I accepted. The stakes were too good: if I won – which I was sure that I would, much to the amusement of his roommates and the horror of mine – he had to let me drive his sports car. If he won, I had to give him a back massage.
The end of the story was I ended up sitting cross-legged on his back (his back was so broad I couldn’t straddle it) working 100 knots out of his back and shoulders for an hour while his roommates tortured me with Sports Center. Ignominious defeat.
(Actually the real end of the story was that my roommate ended up dating him and so she got to drive the sports car. Okay, the real end to the story was when my roommates lost another bet to him and had to serve him and his friend dinner in their bikinis. That they laced with ex-lax after stealing all their toilet seats. Which led to them stealing all our furniture. My roommates had the last laugh though when they stole their television remote. Ah, college.)
But, parenthetical ramblings aside, it might have all ended differently had we wrestled a few hours later! At least so says a study that find that people whose circadian rhythms peak at night — a.k.a. night owls — get stronger as the day gets longer. While larks’ strength remains consistent throughout the day, night owls actually have a strength peak later on.
The study was a small but interesting one to me as I have often thought that workout timing was more a matter of schedule preference than a biological preference. Most fitness professionals tell people to work out first thing in the morning because then you have it done and are less likely to skip it at the end of a long day. You also have the added bonus of an early morning endorphin rush to start your day off right. But this may not be good advice for people who are genuinely a night owl.
Researchers found that these people’s strength peaks around 9 p.m. Larks, however, showed no peak during the day but rather being consistent from morning ’till night. One of the study’s authors, Olle Lagerquist, said:
“Researchers don’t know whether this means evening people who are athletes are necessarily better off. Although night owls may maximize their strength in the evening, they are at a serious disadvantage if they have to compete in the morning. Morning people, on the other hand, would have the same average performance regardless of the time of the competition. Based on the findings, Lagerquist recommends that people who struggle athletically in the morning try going to the gym at night, as they may feel more awake and perform better then.”
As to whether or not this information would have helped me win the sports car, I am unsure. My most productive hours being between 9 pm and midnight, I’ve always thought I was a night owl but that may be more because that is when my children are sleeping rather than due to a natural circadian rhythm. After reading about true night owls — people who have such problems adhering to a normal daylight schedule that they lose jobs, have insomniac tendencies and have otherwise severely altered lives — I’ve decided I’m probably a lark after all. Which is probably for the best as I do 90% of my workouts in the morning and truth to be told, I don’t like weight lifting at night. I’m tired. Plus, I don’t like vampires and zombies.
Are you a lark or a night owl? When do you schedule your workouts? When do you feel you are strongest? Anyone else ever lost a stupid bet?