Everyone knows the feeling after finishing a great workout. Face is bright pink, clothes are soaked, and you’re trying to catch your breath back. This is the time when you just want to just sprawl out on the floor and relax, before getting back into your daily routine. But post-workout routines are just as important as the workout themselves. They help you recover faster, reduce injury and improve your performance in the next workout! And not to worry, they won’t take too much time either. So here are the 6 things you should check off after every workout:
1. Cool Down
We know how easy it can be to see the end of the workout as the finish line. You’ve worked your heart out, and just want to move onto something else now. But before that, it’s really important to take a few minutes to cool down. This means slowly lowering your heart rate and breathing rate back to normal, and allowing your body time to bring down your temperature.
Try light jogging, walking or going for a slow ride on the bike. Any slow movements that will help ease that transition phase as your body returns to its resting state. The cool down is also a great way to remove any lactic acid or ‘burning feeling’ in your muscles, and a good time to reflect on your workout and how you’re progressing.
When we work out, our muscles are constantly contracting and put under tension. This can leave them feeling stiff and sore – more so if they are not properly stretched. Then if the muscles become too tight, they can be at serious risk of pulls or tears. Hence, it’s really important to perform static stretches after any workout. This means stretching the muscles used by holding a stretching position for 15-30 seconds.
Not only will this aide your recovery prior to your next workout; but with sufficient stretching every day, you’ll also find your mobility, flexibility and posture will improve.
3. Foam Roll
If you’ve ever felt ‘knots’ form in your muscles after a workout, I would highly suggest incorporating a foam roller into your post-workout routine. This is piece of foam formed into a log shape, that you can roll any part of your body on. It really helps to relieve the tension that has built up in your muscles, reduce and even remove knots that have formed, and consequently improve your recovery time.
I like to lay on my side with the foam roller under my outer thigh, and move up and down on the roller to remove the knots in my legs – particularly after a heavy weight session when they really start to become evident.
4. Change Your Clothing
Now we know it sounds obvious to tell you to change your clothes after a workout. But often you could be pressed for time, and might have to pick up the kids first, make dinner or go feed your pets. If this is the case, make sure to at least remove any damp clothing: your socks, sports bra, underwear and anything else that contains significant moisture. Otherwise you’re offering an opportunity for fungal, bacterial and yeast infections to develop – and that’s much more uncomfortable than sitting around in wet clothes.
When we exercise, we can sweat out around 1 litre of water every hour! You might also find yourself sweating after the workout as your body attempts to cool itself down. So, it’s vital to replace those fluids by drinking water after your workout, and having a bottle with you throughout the day to continue to re-hydrate.
Our Note: If you’re not a big fan of water, try a low-calorie sports drink or other low-calorie alternative. These still contain water, and will help keep you hydrated.
After a high intensity workout like HIIT, your body would have used up all readily available energy and some of your energy stores which will need to be replenished. Now as glycogen (from carbohydrates) is our preferred energy source, this will have been used first and will be severely depleted. Your body will also benefit from consuming protein, as it provides amino acids and increases anabolic hormones to help your muscles begin to repair. For these reasons, its best to consume a carbohydrate rich, moderate protein meal. Try a filled roll with chicken, or a turkey sandwich.
However, if you’re not overly hungry after your workout, then don’t force yourself to eat a big meal – that’s just empty Calories being consumed. Instead, have a light snack that is high-carbohydrate with some protein to keep you going. Remember, no one knows your body better than you, so listen to it and refuel to suit your needs.
Well there you have it – 6 simple steps to follow after you complete your workout. Now you may have already been doing some of these, but remember each step is a great way to speed up your recovery and optimise your performance for your next workout. So, make sure to work your way through this checklist every time, and form good habits now that will stay with you in the future.
What else do you like to do as part of your post-workout routine? Let us know in the comments.