Oura Crew | Feb 5, 2018

To Wake or Not to Wake? Should I Change My Habits to Work Out with My Partner?

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to change your routine to start working out with a loved one? Or asked yourself ‘What’s my optimal training time?’ In this piece, Dave from Oura gives us a first-hand account of his experiment to answer those questions, and what his journey taught him.

“Hey, we should go running together tomorrow morning,” she said.

The words hung out there a bit as I was caught a little off guard. You would be too if you understood that ‘morning’ to the person speaking those words was a time before the alarm clock went off. Often before the sun came up. And when you’re a night owl like me, this version of ‘morning’ was way too close to the time my head hit the pillow to than I’d like to admit.

Let me back up. This story is over a decade old. Long before I came to know Oura. Long before sleep had become a global topic of interest. It was a time when our workouts were quantified more in minutes and mileage than anything else.

My partner of several years and I knew very well that our biological clocks weren’t on the same cycle. I enjoyed sleeping in, dreaded the morning alarm, and relished staying up late. She was abuzz in the am, happy and productive from the moment she opened her eyes. But at night, as I was jumping in to read the next chapter in my book, she would crash and snooze next to me. She was out in the mornings working up a sweat before the city woke up. I could exercise after work and not feel the effects of being too restless before bed. We knew this about each other.

We were happy.

Then came the blogs. The news segments. The new conventional wisdom was in: Couples who sweat together, stay together. The benefits were (nearly) as exhausting as the workouts themselves. Happier couples. More satisfied. More in love. Workouts even become more efficient. Something about nonverbal mimicry.

Then came the blogs. The news segments. The new conventional wisdom was in: Couples who sweat together, stay together.

While that last one seemed like something straight out of a sci-fi novel, we discussed the idea of working out together. But it was always just that. An idea. Now with this question hanging out in the air, it was time to make it a reality.

“Yeah. That’s a great idea.” I finally blurted out.

So, we did our best to see if we could adapt our habits. Because of work schedules, it was determined that I would make the switch and become a morning person. We’d greet the dawn with a run or cross-training together.

What could be the harm? If it was simply a matter of adjusting my sleep schedule to get happier and have better workout results, why shouldn’t I?

Well, I can tell you from firsthand experience that it’s not as easy as it sounds.

While we certainly felt the benefits of the shared time together, better communication during our runs or workouts, the physical toll of exercising against our natural alignment was clear. It didn’t take more than two weeks of the month-long experiment to see the difference.

I often finished a workout and somehow still yearned for those minutes back under the covers that I gave up to get out and go. Even though I just finished an energizing run.

She was tracking at a slower pace than her average runs without me. I was mentally dreading my workouts instead of being energized and enthused about them.

I often finished a workout and somehow still yearned for those minutes back under the covers that I gave up to get out and go. Even though I just finished an energizing run.

We were unhappy.

I knew that I could handle the pain in less immediate sleep, but what I didn’t know is that we were in effect fighting against our natural biology and attempting to change a genetic trait, and not just a habit.

A quick primer on chronotypes from neurobiologist Ben Smarr, “Everyone has a genetically-shaped chronotype, like lark or owl, that makes different individuals want to sleep earlier or later relative to the sun.“ It’s deep in our biology and our body has been programmed to function much better at certain times of the day than others. Some people are meant to be more productive in the morning than at night, and vice versa. Because of this chronotype, your body clearly indicates when you are ready to perform at your best or when you should be taking it easy.

(It should be mentioned that Oura helps you detect your chronotype and optimize your sleep timing and behavior, as well as the timing of your physical exercises and other behavioral patterns so that you can stay balanced and well performing. But that’s another post)

Knowing your chronotype will reveal exactly what you need to do to work with your body, not against it. We just had no idea how hard it would be to fight against this natural alignment.

Luckily, we haven’t worked out together in 13 years. However, I did say that this story has a happy ending. We’re still (very) happily married and enjoying a growing family. And we’re content knowing that each of us greets the day, and our workout routine, the way that suits us best.

_Read more about_ circadian alignment and balancing your life. When you’re ready, the new Oura ring can help you find your optimal training time, too.

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