When it comes to exercising, we often do our workouts and then continue our day from there, not paying much attention to what comes afterward. Although fitting in some fitness is great, what you do after your workouts matters just as much, and it's just as important to pay attention to our post-exercise habits not only to see the best results, but to keep the rest of our health in check. It's tempting to just throw on the clothes after hitting the gym and go along with the rest of our lives, but doing so can prevent you from properly building muscle, and it can even increase your chance of injury.
"The most important time to practice our good habits is after a workout when are bodies are broken down and in need of recovery," says fitness trainer Stephen Box over email. Working out puts stress on the body, and it needs to an adequate recovery period to repair itself properly and get everything working in order. Not to mention there are hygiene factors at play as well, as most of us tend to work out in public areas and get pretty sweaty after our workouts.
Once you get into proper post-workout habits, you'll find that you'll likely feel better overall. Next time you fit in a workout, make sure you do these seven things after you're done.
1. Cool Down
"In our busy lives we tend to run from one activity to the next without much thought," says Box. "Even if it's just few minutes walking on the treadmill, this is a chance to bring your heart rate back down and reduce stress." Although studies have show that a cool down period doesn't reduce muscle soreness, it can help prevent the buildup of blood in the veins after exercising, according to the New York Times.
Studies on stretching before a workout are mixed in terms of improving muscle soreness or prevent injury, but stretching does improve flexibility, which in turn can help boost your athletic performance, according to the journal Clinical Biomechanics. It's also an option for a type of cool down to bring your body back to its normal state.
3. Use A Foam Roller
Using a foam roller gives your muscles a deep-tissue massage post-workout, and this can speed up the healing and recovery process. A foam roller can also be used as extra support for stretching.
4. Eat Something
"Although there is plenty of debate on getting this meal as to whether whole food or liquid is better, there is no debating the importance of feeding your body after a tough workout," says Box. Eating a balanced mix of carbohydrates and protein is ideal for muscle recovery, and even if you're not hungry for a full meal, you can opt for a snack to keep your body well nourished.
5. Drink Water
"Leaving puddles of sweat on the gym floor may make you feel like a workout beast but it will also leave your body dehydrated," says Box. "When we are dehydrated, our bodies have a hard time functioning correctly, which means we can't properly recover. Make sure you drink enough water to replenish what your body lost during your workout."
"Smelling like a dirty old gym bag alone should convince you to follow this habit," says Box. "However, if you need added motivation, think about all the bacteria growing on your unwashed workout clothes and sweat clogging your pores." If you don't have time to shower or are in a rush, use baby wipes to cleanse your skin, and be sure to at least change out of your sweaty clothes.
7. Get A Good Night's Sleep
"Proper sleep not only helps you feel alert and focused, but it allows your body to heal and repair itself at night," says Box. Multiple studies show that lack of sleep negatively affects muscle recovery, so aim to get a good night's rest after you have fit in a strenuous workout.
Taking the proper steps after your workout can help improve your muscle recovery and even make it easier for you to do future workouts.
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