How to Maintain Your Training Levels During the Transition to Daylight Saving Time

Over the years, our early morning workouts that start at 5:30 a.m. or 6 a.m. have seen decreases in athletic performance during the week after the spring forward into daylight saving time (DST). We have tried making this week a deload week with some success but still most were blurry-eyed and somewhat lethargic going into the workouts.

This year, we are trying something else to see how we transition our body clocks into the new workout starting time with a less-abrupt change to the system.

As a coach, I do not want my athletes at increased risk while driving to our training early in the morning, but I also want them performing at their best with higher energy levels.

Here are a few ideas to ease into the spring time shift if you are an early morning exerciser.

1. Go 30 minutes later the first week. After the Sunday shift to daylight saving time, the first workout of the week on Monday starts 30 minutes later at 6:30 a.m. This 30-minute shift for a week may take the sting out of a full hour earlier starting time and allow for more pre-dawn light to appear if the workout is outdoors.

2. Consider this option for next year. During the week prior to daylight saving time Sunday, start your days 30 minutes earlier. A 6 a.m. normal start now would be 5:30 a.m. for the week prior. Then after DST Sunday, go back to the normal time of a 6 a.m. start. This will give you and your athletes a 30-minute time change for two consecutive weeks. This option may make more sense for most people, since the idea behind squeezing in an early morning workout is to make sure exercise does not interfere with other daily events like work, school or family commitments.

Heart Attacks and Accidents Increase

Studies have found an increase in deaths from accidents as well as heart attacks in the week after the transition to daylight saving time. The combination of getting an hour’s less sleep and starting your day an hour earlier has been shown to increase accident death rates by 6% (Science Daily).

Heart-attack risk in the United States jumped 24% on the Monday after the switch to daylight saving time. The percentage increased in other countries around the world as well (Heart.org).

WedMD concludes: “There may be tired and groggy people hitting the streets Monday morning, in the dark. Interestingly, one study showed a significant increase in accident rates (6%) on the Monday following daylight-saving time. The author attributed sleepiness as a cause. I am not sure exactly which way to go on this one, but maybe you may want to just sit back and go in to work a bit later, when the sun is up?”

The training week is the same as any other week, but the change in time can be a minor factor in decreased athletic performance. The goal is to get rid of the decreased performance and general low-energy levels before going into workouts that are challenging and require a well-rested athlete to be at their best.

Of course, you can just keep everything the same and rip the Band-Aid off. In two or three days, you should be acclimated as long as you maintain your focus on your recovery, like you should do during all other weeks.

More references: Daylight Saving Time Transitions: Impact on Total Mortality

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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