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Tap or Nap

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Muscle

While everyone’s busy searching for the perfect rep scheme or newest miracle supplement, one of the greatest progress boosters of all is constantly overlooked. The concept of taking an afternoon nap is foreign to most of us yet it can do more for your training than 90% of the other minutia bullshit people waste their time obsessing on.

There’s a popular MMA t-shirt that reads “Tap or Nap.” While the intended meaning of the t-shirt is obvious, this slogan can also be applied to your training. Taking naps is so important that if you don’t find the time for one you may be tapping sooner than you think… to injury, illness, or frustration.

That’s because that afternoon fatigue that sets in for almost all of us is a normal thing. It’s your body’s way of telling you it needs a rest. You can ignore it and just battle through the rest of your day. Or you can drink some coffee to mask the symptoms. But over the long haul it will catch up with you one way or another. That much is inevitable.

The smartest plan is to take a short nap. Twenty minutes is ideal but if you’re pressed for time, ten minutes is better than nothing.

Now right about now the majority of people reading this are probably thinking they’re too busy to take a nap or work in a job that doesn’t allow it or that one way or another they just can’t afford the luxury. And that may or may not be true.

Americans pride themselves on how hard they work. And “hard” is judged in hours. It’s a badge of honor to work 70 hours per week; 90 is even better. Only slackers work 40 hour weeks these days, right?

With all there is to worry about who has time to nap? It’s just not that important.

Or is it? If I told you to get some fresh air and sunlight every day you wouldn’t argue. If I told you to eat fruits and vegetables you wouldn’t tell me I was crazy. So why is the concept of taking a nap still so frowned upon? Because, it my opinion, it’s just as important as anything else.

When your body needs rest you should let it rest. Most of us ignore these signals and then end up having to use sleeping aids to fall asleep at a later time because we are over tired and the body’s homeostasis has been disturbed. A short nap will reenergize you and improve your focus for the rest of the day, making you even more productive. It will also help increase growth hormone secretion and restore all of your body’s depleted functions to a state of homeostasis.

While the majority of us continue to resist the idea there is a portion of the population that has begun to make the shift. Several companies have recently recognized the importance of afternoon naps and have begun allowing employees to take them. Some of these organizations have even gone so far as to add rooms dedicated to power naps. That’s because they know that productive employees make them more money, and productive employees are well rested employees.

Taking a regular afternoon nap will help you recover faster from training, it will help you build muscle faster, it will boost your immune system and your focus and will lead to an overall improved feeling of well being and health.

My advice is to start looking for times to squeeze one in. If you can’t, you can’t. But many of you can and I suggested you start doing so today. The optimal time is right around when the mid afternoon fatigue sets in. Another great choice is to take a nap immediately after training. This is something that I have recommended to my clients for years and something that many well known bodybuilders have always been big proponents of.

I must warn you, though, that the sense of guilt will make your nap difficult to enjoy at first. But you’ll have to get over it.

Secondly, your wife, girlfriend or mother may have a problem with it. As I already mentioned, we have all been led to believe that no one in this country has “earned” the right to take a nap. This is an obstacle you will have to overcome with your house mate. But explain why you need to do this and be firm. No matter how much they oppose the idea… you’re napping. I know a guy who’s been married for three years and his biggest complaint is that he hasn’t taken a nap since the wedding. And he’s absolutely miserable about it. Don’t become that guy.

Please leave your comments below.

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23 Responses to Tap or Nap

  1. Ryan November 3, 2009 at 7:37 am #

    i think getting sleep/rest period is just crucial to maintaining your body…

    so this *IS* news we should follow..even though we work in a society that rewards you MORE for punishing yourself working long hours, etc.

  2. Davd November 3, 2009 at 8:01 am #

    About time something like this was posted. I try to grab 2 10-20 minute power naps a day since I’m up at 4:15 to start my day. Those things are what gets me through each day with enough energy and brain power to lift and work at a high level.

  3. Chris November 3, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    I’m a fan of naps, but not everyone can power nap. I’ve tried and it takes me a good 20 min at least to fall asleep.

  4. Joe Hashey November 3, 2009 at 11:06 am #

    Jason – good post, thanks for sharing! Gotta get that rest

    – Joe

  5. Lame-R November 3, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    Last summer our daughter was having trouble sleeping so I started going to bed with her at around 8:30 and sleeping till 6. After a week of that I noticed some big differences, both subjectively and objectively. Besides feeling great, my logs showed a several pounds improvement in my week-to-week strength gains over normal. Additionally, after 2 weeks my sinuses cleared up completely–no more shooting snot out my nostrils on my morning ride to work. It was a nice side-effect.

    Needless to say, ever since then I’m sold on the benefits of getting plenty of sleep. Now if only I could be disciplined enough to get back to doing that. Thanks for the reminder to do what I know is right.

  6. Umberto November 3, 2009 at 12:43 pm #

    Hello Coach
    A quick question on the post. Is the nap supposed to be actually falling asleep and getting to the REM part of it to really feel the results? I’m asking because I have real trouble falling asleep during the day, I have no trouble at night and can sleep 7 to 8 hours with no problem. But in the afternoon is a different story. I do have the time to do that, but regardless of what I do I just can’t fall asleep I can have a good rest but not really sleep. So is it still good, has it a good benefit just to rest?
    Thank you

  7. On a limb with Claudia November 3, 2009 at 1:39 pm #

    I was thinking about this just today. I really struggle to give myself permission to nap – just so much to do, experience and live. And, I know you’re right.

    Maybe I’ll try a nap this month and see if it makes a difference in recovery. The 1/2 marathon is only a few weeks away so anything extra would help get through this thing.

    Thanks again for a fabulous article.

  8. Odi November 3, 2009 at 3:36 pm #

    I know of the afternoon nap as a way to give the heart and blood pressure some relaxation momment, just a quick nap so the 10 – 20 minute range is more than enough.

  9. Michael Boyle November 3, 2009 at 4:56 pm #

    Great piece Jay. I try to nap every day I can. I still make my kids ( 10 +4) take naps on the weekend so I can nap. Can I reprint this on my site?

  10. Joe Weaver November 3, 2009 at 6:24 pm #

    A number of research studies over the last 35 years have shown that some forms of meditation can give your body deeper rest than you can get through sleep.
    I have been doing TM twenty minutes morning and afternoon since ’75 with great results. Feels totally refreshing- mind and body. And it is easy and enjoyable or else I wouldn’t have kept doing it.

  11. jarod November 3, 2009 at 10:39 pm #

    i try and nap, its great when im at uni and have a 6hr break i always get a solid 1-3 hrs sleep as sucky as it is to sleep in the front seat of my car its better than nothing. i dont nap every day but it would be good if i could although it takes me quite a while to fall asleep like the poster above it takes me a good 20 mins to fall asleep.

  12. Ankit November 4, 2009 at 2:02 am #

    Hey Coach,

    Do you usually nap first immediately after workout, or would you eat something first then nap? Basically I’m wondering if I should eat after napping, or before concerning the post-workout session.

  13. Nicole November 4, 2009 at 8:55 am #

    Especially on days where I don’t get enough sleep, I often get home and take a 20-40 minute nap BEFORE heading to the gym to train.

    I jog the 2 minutes to the gym to wake myself up and do a 10 minute dynamic warm up to wake up my nervous system (even when I didn’t nap immediately prior). It seems to work out well — I’m often too busy after a workout to fit in the same nap, and by that time the house is bustling with activity anyways. Often I know I would have had a totally shit workout if it weren’t for the peri-nap.

  14. Daniel November 4, 2009 at 4:46 pm #

    I don’t think napping is good for endomorphs, for us it might be better to take a walk instead of a nap.

  15. Javier November 4, 2009 at 5:36 pm #

    Holy sh*t, your best photo yet. Hands down best photos of any website. You sir, have an eye for art =).

    Kind of unrelated to this post, but I wanted to thank you Jason for changing my lifestyle. I’m not talking about fitness-wise, but health-wise. Since you posted your piece on the disastrous effects of dairy after your step father passed away (my condolences), I did some research of my own and went out and bought The China Study. All I have to say is WOW, its amazing there are all of these UNBIASED peer-reviewed published studies out there showing the correlation between consuming animal protein and the damage it does to the human body (primarily cancer), yet I had never heard about this. Your post started me on my way to a mainly plant-based diet, and I FEEL GREAT. I look in the mirror and I see my midsection shrinking everyday and my muscles more defined. It’s crazy, I know you’ve been preaching a vegan diet for years but your post on your stepdad really opened my eyes. Anyway, just wanted to say a million thanks for guiding my way and keep up the good work.

  16. Dave November 5, 2009 at 4:20 am #

    I have recently started taking a post-training nap. I get up at 5:45am and train at 7:30am, get home about 8:50am, and nap from 9:20-9:40. Then I get the bus to work.

    All in all, I feel great after my 15-20 minute nap. If you can nap after training, do it! :-)

  17. Kelly M November 5, 2009 at 6:59 am #

    As someone who has to watch his blood glucose levels, I am advised to take a walk after eating a meal that might be heavier than it should be. I take naps when I get home from work and just before I eat supper. It seems to work just fine. I’d nap at the office, but I’m not so sure my manager would care for that.

  18. Joy November 6, 2009 at 11:03 pm #

    I have a v busy wrkng time saving lives.(cardiac nure)..I would love to take nap esp in the afternoon, but i can’t,,, maybe on my days off….. :)

  19. jasonferruggia November 7, 2009 at 6:35 am #

    Thanks, Joe.

    Lame R, thanks for reporting that.

    Claudia, it could only help. Goo luck.

    Thanks Mike. You can reprint it.

    Joe Weaver, that is true. I’m a big fan of meditation.

    Ankit, drink a shake and then nap.

    Nicole, pre workout naps are key. I used to do that religiously when I was my biggest and strongest. Coincidence?

    Daniel, napping is good for everyone.

    Javier, thanks for sharing. Glad I could be of some help.

    Joy, for all of us, it’s probably more important that you nap than 99% of all other professions. When someone’s life is in your hands you can’t afford to be tired. That’s why most hospitals have places for the doctors to take naps.

  20. Coop November 16, 2009 at 3:11 pm #

    One of the best “tricks” is to buy a sleep mask for the eyes. I can take a nap anywhere with my mask. (Never thought I’d be singing the praises of a sleep mask as a dude at 43 years old, but it works.)

    Like others, I wake up at 4:50a to teach boot camp, so a nap around noon or one is perfect.


  21. Daniel December 20, 2009 at 6:50 am #

    I really shouldn’t be taking naps, because I have problems with my sleep rythm. Naps screw them up even more.

  22. Vaclav Gregor December 5, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    Oh guys, if you are not napping already start doing it. Your energy will skyrocket after that. Just make sure you limit your nap. For me, it works best to take about 15 minutes.

  23. Ramon Rivera January 19, 2015 at 8:14 am #

    being myself from southern Spain where nap is a cultural thing has to say is a wonderful thing! Not too long, we do it 30-45 minutes, never more than 60. It really improves your life.