When Phantom of the Opera star Kelly Grant says that she runs five miles every day—even when she has two Broadway performances—I’m stunned speechless. “Wow,” I mutter. “I usually give myself a hall pass on running if I’ve so much as climbed a flight of stairs that day.”
“I have more energy after a run than I do after a nap.”
While I mentally rethink plans to reward myself for a day of sitting at my computer with a night of watching Netflix, out loud, I ask her how in the world it’s possible to stay energized with such a demanding schedule—especially, I add, given the fact that she also happens to be the mother of a two-and-a-half year-old child. “I run,” she answers. “People ask, ‘Why don’t you nap instead of running, especially in the off season?’ This sounds crazy, but I have more energy after a run than I do after a nap.”
The singer refers to running as “her version of a natural supplement” and says that her body does a lot of energizing work while she’s taking laps. “It [reduces] cortisol and releases endorphins,” she explains. “These things offset fatigue and make you more alert. Plus, your mood goes up!”
Though I’d prefer to debunk Grant’s active PM-slump prescription so that I can nap beneath my desk without guilt, she’s right. “For decades avid runners and other fitness-enthusiasts have felt a ‘runners high’, the euphoric feeling reported during and after exercise,” says Dr. Brett Dolezal, associate director of the Exercise Physiology Research Laboratory at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He attributes this elated feeling to those aforementioned endorphins, as well as to some additional neuroscience. “Mechanistically similar to endorphins, endocannabinoid—a naturally synthesized version of THC in marijuana—production also responds to exercise and provides a feeling of euphoria and being ‘energized’.”
In other words, running gets you (naturally) high, which is yet another reason to pound the pavement when you’re feeling depleted; however, Dolezal caveats that skipping sleep will diminish these benefits. “Reaping the benefits of exercise depends on the quality of one’s sleep as well,” he says. Just like that, my naps are back.
When I reiterate to Grant how difficult it is for many of us to lace up our sneakers on a regular day—let alone on one in which we’ve committed to four hours onstage following six straight hours of swim classes and other such activities with a toddler—she admits that it’s not always easy for her, either. “Getting yourself out the door is hard,” she admits. “But since I’ve been doing this most of my life, it’s sort of a Pavlovian thing for me. My body knows that I’m going to feel better afterward. And I do.”
Full disclosure: Coffee—up to four cups a day—also helps the multi-hyphenate fuel up despite a toddler-induced lack of sleep, as do simple snacks such as nuts or yogurts. “I try to keep steady calories going in,” she says. “That way, I don’t experience a sugar crash. Treat your body like a car. Give it the best kind of gas you can, and give it the right kind of gas at the right time.”
When I ask if she ever soothes her muscles with a steamy soak at the end of the day, Grant laughs. “People tell me I should take Epsom salt baths, but I’d rather sleep if I have that much downtime.” she says. Instead, she uses a frozen water bottle to massage her feet as needed for fasciitis. “Everything has to be multitasked with me,” she explains. “I’m a huge Stephen Colbert fan, so I watch the first 15 minutes while rolling the water bottle back and forth over the arch of my foot. That’s when, usually after midnight, I sit down. Finally.” (She also uses the time to stretch. But of course.)
In a New York minute, out interview time is up, and Grant’s got to go give her regards to Broadway once again. We exchange goodbyes, and as I hang up the phone, I notice the sudden onset of a predictable late-afternoon crash. I want desperately to sleep, but I decide to try Grant’s trick instead. Resentfully, I lace up my sneaks and head outside for a run. Turns out, she’s right—I do feel better afterward.
Later, around the time Grant hits the stage for her second show, I think of her again. For a moment, I consider how much more she’s still to accomplish in her day and wonder if I should keep going despite my desire to hurl myself onto to the couch for a binge sesh. After a moment, I put on Netflix anyway. There’s always tomorrow, right?
Should you feel motivated to run, check out our guide to finding the perfect sneaker to enhance performance and prevent injury. Plus, try these recovery tricks for when a frozen water bottle just won’t do.