Why Sleep is Key for Fitness: An Interview with Personal Trainer Lucas James

Last Updated On August 22nd, 2023
Why Sleep is Key for Fitness: An Interview with Personal Trainer Lucas James

Lucas James is a celebrity personal trainer offering some key insights about how sleep and fitness are forever intertwined.

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People are always thinking about getting fit. When they do, exercising and eating right come to mind right away. That’s great, but most don’t think about their sleep cycle.

Sleeping is a major part of being fit and staying healthy. Sleeping allows your body to rejuvenate and equalize itself and allows your body to get the most out of each workout session.

In comes Lucas James. He understands that fitness needs to be looked at holistically. Lucas checks his clients’ vitals and optimizes their workout sessions for what their goals are.

But instead of pushing his clients to do something they’re unfamiliar with, Lucas likes to focus on teaching the proper form and breathing during the exercise. When his clients aren’t in the gym, Lucas recommends the proper amount of sleep and a nutrition plan to ensure that they’re getting the most from their fitness regiment.

Lucas has been featured in InTouch, Us Weekly, The Arizona Republic, TMZ, Bravo and CBS. He’s worked with athletes from the Phoenix Suns and the Phoenix Mercury along with many others, but found that improving individuals’ lives was a better fit for him.

Interviewing Lucas gave us a ton of inspiration and healthy tips to start with. He shared how he got into fitness and why he thinks it’s imperative for everyone to talk about why sleep is important for a healthy exercise routine.

Ryan: How did you get your start in fitness and why did you decide to become a personal trainer?

Lucas: I started lifting weights at the age of 14 for my high school football team and ever since then I’ve had a passion for fitness.

I graduated from college with aspirations to work for a professional sports team and I made that dream come true by moving to AZ and working for the WNBA Basketball – Phoenix Mercury, NBA Basketball – Phoenix Suns, and ECHL Hockey – Phoenix Roadrunners.

I worked for the ownership group who owned all three teams for about three years and then just got burnt out with all the micromanagement, office politics, and having zero work/life balance. I decided to leave the organization and I eventually started my own luxury fitness company.

My passion is really fueled by getting the opportunity to make healthy lifestyle changes in my clients’ lives. The reward comes from hearing my clients get compliments because of their new and improved bodies. Having them reach their fitness and/or nutrition goals is what drives me. The job is very rewarding and that’s why I love what I do!

Ryan: What are the core principles anyone should keep in mind when addressing their physical health for the first time?

Lucas: My core principles all focus on internal and external health. First, everyone should get a yearly check-up from a primary physician and get their blood work done. Many people have internal health problems, but no symptoms are shown, so it’s important to be proactive for preventative illness and disease.

Secondly, sleep is a very important factor. It’s more important than nutrition and fitness because without ample sleep people are less likely to eat healthy and exercise. I highly recommend developing a consistent sleep pattern of going to bed and waking up the same time during the week.

I recommend at least six to eight hours of sleep a night. If I don’t get good sleep, I am worthless the next day. I purchased an Amerisleep AS4 two years ago and it has made a huge difference in my sleep and comfort.

Thirdly, nutrition is a very important principle – especially for anyone who’s looking to lose weight. Nutrition accounts for about 70-80% of weight loss and an overall healthy lifestyle. I recommend seeing a registered dietitian for creating a nutrition meal plan for any goal someone might have.

Lastly, fitness can be weight training, running, group fitness classes or anything that elevates your heart rate and exercises the muscles. A person should shoot for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

Core Principles
Photo by Amerisleep

Ryan: How does exercising and healthier sleeping habits complement one another?

Lucas: Exercise and sleep go hand-in-hand. Like I mentioned before, without the proper amount of sleep (six to eight hours) a sleep-deprived person is less likely to eat healthy food or exercise.

For example, I have a client that gets about four to five hours a sleep a night and he tries to set his alarm for 5:30am to go running.

Well, he never makes the run because he sacrifices work for sleep. If he made sleep a priority he would probably be able to get up and run.

I have some clients that set alarms or reminders on their phones to tell them to go to bed. Sleep can also help make you more successful since it plays an important role in muscle recovery and men produce most of their growth hormone (GH) while they sleep.

Ryan: What steps can anyone take today to focus more regularly on a daily fitness routine?

Lucas: The first step to starting a fitness routine is to establish short-term goals. Specifically, SMART goals –Meaning “S”pecific, “M”easurable, “A”ttainable, “R”ealistic, and “T”imely. This could be as simple as walking three times a week for 45 minutes.

The second step is to make fitness and exercising a priority. That means plan it out for the week and schedule it in your calendar – treat it like a business meeting.

Thirdly, have fun doing it! If the fitness routine stresses you out or it’s frustrating then there’s a very high chance you won’t maintain it.

Find something that you look forward too or at least enjoy doing. Lastly, a person needs to commit to their fitness program.

Don’t expect results if you’re putting in half the effort. Be committed and consistent with your fitness routine. Ideally, commit yourself to 90 days to see real changes in your body.

Ryan: When is the best time to exercise and does it relate to your sleeping preferences?

Lucas: The best time to exercise is based on a person’s preference. If someone can exercise at 5am or 7pm consistently that’s all that matters.

The key is consistency. Make time to exercise and be consistent. If a person is low on sleep (e.g. six hours or less) then there’s a good chance that person will make the excuse “I’m too tired” and skip the workout. The solution is to get sleep and make it a priority.

I generally recommend exercise when energy is high. Personally, I enjoy doing cardio in the morning and weight training mid-afternoon.

Ryan: What are the biggest oversights people make when they’re trying to become healthier?

Lucas: The biggest oversight I see is that people rely on supplements or pills for weight loss or general health. Sleep, nutrition, exercise and regular doctor check-ups are required to start and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Do not rely on a pill for a quick fix or solution to your health.

Suppliment pills
Photo courtesy of SimonQ, Flickr

Ryan: What are the most important lessons for being healthy, sleeping better and staying well-rounded?

Lucas: You can’t buy time and you can’t buy health. The longer you wait to get healthy, the longer it’s going to take to get healthy. Start now, make it a priority, commit and be consistent. There is no perfect diet or perfect exercise. Start with small changes. Aim for progress, not perfection!

What’s holding you back from living a healthier lifestyle? Which tips for getting more sleep, eating better and exercising regularly will you try first?

About the author

April Mayer is a sleep expert and writer with a degree in exercise physiology. She has dedicated her career to exploring the relationship between sleep and productivity. Her insightful articles, such as "The Surprising Way Your Mood Might Be Messing With Your Productivity" and "Wake Up to More Productive Mornings," have been featured in reputable publications like Forbes, Greatist, Real Homes, Thrillist, Tom's Guide, and Eat This, Not That. With a passion for helping others lead more productive lives through restful sleep, April offers valuable expertise on foods and vitamins for better sleep. As a trusted member of the Early Bird team since March 2020, she continues to provide informative and well-researched content.

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