Most of us have great pre workout and during workout routines. We drink plenty of water before and during exercise, warm up, stretch, work our entire body, and get in a good mix of cardio, core fitness, and strength training. After exercise, we promptly head back to the locker room, get cleaned up, and journey to our next destination.
What so many people don’t realize is the importance of what you do after you work out. You may have done the majority of the work during your exercise session, but how you treat your body in the minutes and hours after you exercise has a direct effect on muscle soreness, muscle strength and growth, and hydration.
After your last exercise, your workout isn’t over. The first thing you need to do is ensure that you have time to cool down. Even if you just completed a simple run, you still should do light cardio for a few minutes – i.e., walking and stretching. This brings your heart rate down at a slow and steady pace, which helps you avoid feeling sick or nauseous after a workout. Walking on a treadmill for five minutes is an easy way to cool down.
Even when you’re actually done exercising, you still need to keep replenishing your fluid levels. It’s recommended that you drink another two to three glasses of water within two hours after you’ve finished exercising. In addition, drink water regularly throughout the rest of your day. You may not feel thirsty anymore, but you still need to replenish yourself to avoid getting dehydrated and keep your body functioning at its highest performance level.
You can stretch thoroughly at this point because your muscles are warm and in their most flexible state. Find stretches that work best for you and use the muscle groups that were worked hard during your sport or activity. Stretch thoroughly, and do not bounce or make quick sudden motions – this can lead to strain or injury.
If you’re engaging in a high impact sport, such as running or martial arts, you’ll find that you can be extremely sore immediately following a workout. This is due to inflammation in our bodies resulting from the high demand we put on them during our workouts. Having a regular massage by a professional or loved one is always a great way to reduce this soreness and tension in the muscles. However, due to time and cost limitations, we’re often best served to self-massage whatever area or areas that we have experienced tightness or soreness. There’s a variety of home massage tools you can purchase to use in your post workout routines.
As with massage, icing is an invaluable tool that we have in our bag of tricks to help us recover more quickly and get our bodies ready to start preparing for our next workout.
One of the last and most important things to do after a workout is to eat. Try to eat something within 90 minutes of your workout, but the sooner, the better. If you’re an advanced athlete who has just completed a difficult workout or race, you want to eat a snack within 20 minutes after your workout or event. Preferably, try to eat complex carbohydrates with a small portion of protein, such as whole grain bread with a tablespoon or two of peanut butter. Eat a full meal within 90 minutes. You’ve not only burned hundreds of calories and lost carbohydrates, but you have also actually torn your muscles. You need to repair those muscles and boost your energy level, and you need to do it fast! Look for foods that are packed with complex carbohydrates and high in protein. The carbs will re-energize your body while slowly turning into calories so you have plenty of time to burn them before they turn to fat. The protein helps repair your muscles, so they grow stronger and are ready for your next workout. Some great options include protein shakes, hummus and whole grain pita, tuna fish on whole grain bread, or yogurt and fruit.
Rest and Recover
Sleep, rest, and take time off until your next workout is planned. This will let your body recover. Recovery is extremely important and often overlooked. Athletes who are highly committed to a particular sport and want to achieve maximum results most often would improve performance by helping their bodies recover more efficiently – this means getting more rest.
If you suffer an injury, be sure to allow the proper recovery time and don’t push yourself to perform. This can lead to further, more catastrophic injury that will take you out of the game even longer, if not permanently. A simple rule? If it hurts, don’t do it. Additionally, always consult a physician for proper recovery plans concerning injuries!