When it comes to working out, your habits before and after you go to the gym matter just as much as when you're actually there. Make a number of post-gym mistakes that ruin your workout, and you might not see or feel the results you were hoping for. If you're trying to optimize your fitness and make the most of out your workout sessions, it's important to know what to do when you've left the treadmill so you reap all the benefits of making the effort to exercise.
"In general, many people struggle in seeing progress in workouts because they fail to understand that staying in shape requires a lifelong commitment on several components," says Rachel Straub, MS, CSCS over email. "It is a combination of proper nutrition, a sound exercise program, adequate sleep, managing stress, and more. If one component is neglected, your results will suffer."
After our workouts, we're usually pooped and just thinking about sitting on the couch, but if you want to feel as fit and energetic as possible, you'll want to make sure you're doing things right. If you feel like your results aren't what you want them to be, check to see if you're making these nine post-gym mistakes that could ruin your workout.
1. Not Drinking Enough Water
After you've completed all those squats, don't forget to load up on water. "Once you become even slightly dehydrated your chances for over training go way up," says certified personal trainer Alex Haschen over email "If you continually beat down your body and do not properly refuel, your body will begin to shut down."
2. Skipping A Cool Down
When you're finished working out, your heart's beating fast, your body temperature is up, and your blood vessels are dilated. All these changes in your body mean if you stop too fast, you could end up feeling sick or even passing out. Taking the time to let your body cool down can help avoid this.
3. Not Stretching
"Stretching after a hard workout gives the body a chance to elongate the muscles that have been worked and helps in eliminating any lactic acid build up that may have occurred during the session," says trainer Katy Fraggos over email. "It may seem silly, but taking these extra 5-10 mins will have a greater impact on your workouts during the week and for life."
4. Not Eating Enough Food
"After you workout, your body need to be fed in order for recovery to be as effective as possible. I suggest that within an hour after your workout you ingest 150-300calories that includes at least 15g protein for recovery
5. Forgetting To Rest
"With the start of the new year, many of us get over zealous about getting in better shape," says Straub. "However, overtraining (and not providing adequate recovery time), can impair immune function and cause injury. Some of us can exercise 5+ days a week for at least 60 minutes. Some of us can't. Listen to your body!"
6. Staying Up Late
"Our bodies recover as we sleep," says Haschen. "If you are not getting enough sleep, you are depriving your body of the time it needs to recover from a workout. If you wake tired and groggy, the following workout will suffer and before you know it, you have spiraled, leaving you perpetually tired and performing at a low level."
7. Allowing Yourself Too Many Cheats
"People will allow themselves 'cheats' or treats due to the fact that they worked out hard, but that only sets you back," says Haschen. "If you workout only to be able to eat junk, and you expect to see change, you will be disappointed." Everyone deserves a donut from time to time, but if you find you constantly reward yourself with unhealthy foods, you might be overdoing it.
8. Taking An Ibuprofen Every Time
If you often feel sore, it might be tempting to take an ibuprofen to ease the uncomfortable feeling, but doing so could actually hinder your body's ability to build muscle, according to a study from the journal American Journal of Physiology Endocrinology and Metabolism. Taking NSAID painkillers inhibits protein synthesis, which can inhibit muscle growth.
9. Not Moving Enough The Rest Of The Day
Just because your designated workout has ended doesn’t mean your physical activity for the day has to be done. "Choose to live a more active life outside the gym too," says Straub. "This means taking the stairs, parking farther away, taking the dog for an extra walk, etc. After you’ve worked out, the body’s furnace has been ignited, so roll with it."
The more you adopt good habits after your workouts, the better results you'll end up seeing.