You just finished an intense workout. Your body is screaming. Sweat has covered your body. Then what? You presumably down some water, stretch a little, and possibly take a bite of food. While they are beneficial after a strenuous workout, putting a bit more emphasis on proper recuperation will really improve your post-workout routine (and daily life!).
Amoila Cesar, a BeachBody super trainer and NASM-certified personal trainer, believes that many individuals view post-workout recuperation as something they do when they have time. This is unfortunate because prioritizing recuperation is crucial for maximizing performance and lowering your risk of injury. As a result, it frequently goes unnoticed.
Additionally, many of the actions you take to fully recover from a workout support vital bodily processes that keep you healthy, energised, and prepared to take on the day. Try these professional-endorsed post-workout recovery methods the next time you’re tempted to fall on the couch after working out instead.
1. Remain calm
Even though it’s the last thing you want to do after a challenging workout, you should really put in additional work. Sara Farias, a personal trainer who specializes in HIIT and strength exercises, advises clients to spend at least five to six minutes concentrating on their breathing while stretching the main muscles they just worked.
According to Cesar, stretching reduces muscle tension, improves blood flow, increases mobility, and encourages the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to fatigued muscles, all of which aid in promoting repair and recovery and making your body stronger.
2. Sip away
After exerting yourself and losing a lot of water through sweat, it’s critical to replace your body’s water supply. Proper hydration not only keeps joints lubricated to help prevent aches, but it also controls body temperature, guards against cramps, and keeps you from feeling lightheaded. Additionally, you require sufficient flow to transport all the nutrients that aid in recovery to your muscles, heart, brain, and other organs.
Additionally, remember to drink water both before and throughout your workout. Theodore “Teddy” Savage, director of health and fitness excellence at Planet Fitness, argues that if you just drink when you’re thirsty, as so many people do, you’re already exhausted and on the verge of dehydration. When you sip over a longer length of time rather than guzzling a much straight after exercise, your body will absorb it more effectively.
3. Give a massage to yourself
Because foam rolling is essentially a massage, it feels incredibly pleasant. According to Cesar, using a foam roller helps break up muscle “adhesions” that may result in discomfort or impair performance.
Farias continues, “A massage gun can aid in a similar way, and if you don’t have either, a lacrosse or tennis ball will work.” Follow the product’s usage instructions, and if you decide to DIY it, ask a physical therapist or personal trainer to show you how to do it properly (or check out our favourite foam roller workouts here).
4. Experience a chill
There’s a reason why sportsmen frequently take an ice bath (yep, a tub of ice-cold water) to relax. According to Savage, “Hydrotherapy has been demonstrated to enhance blood flow and reduce inflammation, two essential elements of recovery.”
The same advantages may be obtained by taking a cold shower, according to Savage, so don’t worry if you’re not quite ready for an ice bath.
5. Examine compression clothing
For the majority of main body parts—calf muscles, knees, hands, elbows, back, you name it—you can buy snug-fitting compression clothing. By lightly compressing muscles to increase circulation and lower inflammation, they assist manage or avoid pain and delayed soreness.
According to Savage, they may also help eliminate lactic acid, which accumulates in muscles after high-intensity activity and causes pain, particularly in runners. Beyond enhancing comfort, Savage continues, preventing or reducing pain aids in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and encourages increased flexibility and range of motion.
6. Arrange for rest
Naturally, you relax after an exercise, but you should set out particular days each week for complete inactivity. According to Savage, “a lot of the time the thinking is that you need to work out continually to attain your goals.” However, working out seven days a week is excessive. You should include rest days in your workout routine since your muscles need time to recover.
Sorry, but that doesn’t mean to relax. By increasing blood flow, light exercise that gets your body moving, like a stroll, hike, bike ride, light swim, or game of tag, speeds up muscle recovery without taxing it, says Cesar.
7. Perform a fast body check
After your workout, give yourself some time to reflect on how you feel. Avoiding overexertion is one of the best strategies to avoid pain or injury. To challenge yourself without punishing yourself should be your aim. In other words, exert yourself, but not to the point that you suffer from soreness the following day. “If you leave your workout feeling challenging, but also strong and energised, you’ve struck the sweet spot. Never let exhaustion and fatigue follow a workout. If you do, reduce it the following time.
8. Give your muscles food
Pay special attention to the foods you eat after exercise if you want to increase muscle strength or size in general. The optimum approach, according to Farias, is to consume something within an hour of finishing your workout.
Savage advises consuming a variety of nutritious carbs, lean proteins, and healthy fats in order to support the physiological adjustments your body needs to advance physically. For instance, a cup of Greek yogurt with fresh berries or a slice of healthy grain bread with peanut butter and sliced bananas would be appropriate.
It’s also critical to replace any electrolytes that are lost through perspiration. These minerals are crucial for fluid balance and muscle contraction, and a deficiency in them can cause unpleasant symptoms including headache, dizziness, cramps, or weakening in the muscles. The majority of fresh fruit includes electrolytes, and drinking coconut water can also help you replenish them, according to Savage.
9. Become warm then cold
Apply heat to soothe and relax stiff muscles after a strenuous workout, then move to ice to lessen discomfort and inflammation. Then, Savage advises, “stretch out your muscles.” This combination is ideal.
10. Put sleep first
Sleep deprivation limits the protein synthesis required for muscle repair, according to Farias. “Bedtime is when our muscles get the chance to recuperate after activity,” she says.
Establish a sleep schedule that works for you.
Create a relaxing ritual, which can include doing a brief meditation, turning down the lights, or diffusing a calming scent like lavender, according to our guide to getting a good night’s sleep.