9 Post-Workout Mistakes You Don't Realize You're Making — Because Yes, Cool Down Is Actually Important

The universal truth is that we all want to get the most out of our workouts. If we've made the effort to drag ourselves to a gym/yoga studio/spin class and managed to survive, you can bet that we want to make sure we've done everything we can, and that we want to avoid pre and post-workout mistakes to get the best results. We all know how important it is to eat before exercising, wear the appropriate clothing and hydrate to the point of excess, but it turns out there are certain post-workout behaviors that are important, too.

After an intense gym session, all you probably want to do (at least, all I ever want to do) is leave immediately, grab a chipotle burrito and melt into your couch for the remainder of the evening with a bottle of wine and your Netflix queue. Unfortunately, there are a few things you need to get done so that your workout was worth all of the effort you put into it before that dream can become a reality.

Here are some post workout mistakes we're all guilty of making, probably without realizing it (including me, who happens to be writing this wearing the same outfit I wore to a bootcamp class at 6 a.m.) and how to fix them.

1. Forgetting To Cool Down

If you’re anything like me, as soon as you hit the X-mile mark (whatever goal you’ve set for yourself on a given day) on the treadmill, all you want is to hop off and be done. But in order to make the most of your workout, it’s uber-important to take those five extra minutes to cool down. Cooling down reduces your heart rate, stabilizes your blood circulation and reduces muscle soreness.

2. Skipping Your Stretches

There’s always that awkward moment at the end of a workout class when people start to sneak out before the stretching starts, and it turns out they are making the biggest workout mistake of all. Stretching after a workout, it turns out, is actually just as important as the workout itself. It helps reduce aching in your muscles and increases flexibility, which will make your next gym session quite a bit easier.

3. Waiting Too Long To Eat

After a tough workout, you're bound to be starving. Your metabolism is revved up for two full hours after a workout, so make sure you eat something within this time frame. Wait at least 15 minutes so your body can cool down, but then treat your body to a refuel your after it’s lost so many calories.

4. Eating The Wrong Things

There are certain things you should absolutely never eat after a workout, all of which are filled with either sugar or salt. Choose something that has both protein and carbs (peanut butter toast is a great option) to fill yourself up the right way.

5. Not Hydrating Enough After You’re Done

Water is so, so important for your body before, during and after your workout. It also happens to be good for your skin and body (we all need to just accept that it’s the miracle liquid and stop talking about it) so you’re really doing yourself a favor by drinking it often. You need to stay hydrated in order to replace the liquids your body lost through sweat, and water is the best way to do it. Sports drinks are OK too, but unnecessary unless you’re, say, running a marathon or competing in an iron man (which I certainly I am not). Skip out on energy drinks (though coffee, weirdly, is another recommended post-workout drink) and make sure you drink at least 34 ounces of whatever you decide to hydrate with (water water water!!).

Wave Enviro Water Bottle, $7, Amazon

6. Touching Your Sweaty Face/Not Washing Your Face Immediately

Sweat breeds bacteria (lovely, isn’t it?) which can clog your pores and cause breakouts. Touching your sweaty face is a major no-no because it spreads the bacteria around, and can transfer new oil and bacteria to your skin from your hands (Germ party in your pores! Holla!). Wash your face immediately after exercising to get rid of the dirt and keep your skin safe.

Ponds Cleansing Towelettes, $15, Amazon

7. Not Tracking Your Progress

After all, how will you know what a strong gym-goddess you’re turning into if you don’t keep track of your workouts? It’s important to make note of how you’re doing (how many miles you’re running, how much you’re lifting, how your body is changing) so that you can continuously set new, effective exercise goals.

Fitbit, $146, Amazon

8. Staying In Your Sweaty Clothes Too Long

And I don’t just mean for the sake of the people who have to be around you all day. Wearing your workout clothes for too long after you leave the gym can cause rashes and bacterial infections, including yeast and staff infections (yikes!). If you really don’t have time to change, make sure your exercise attire is made out of synthetic fabrics that have been designed to keep you cool and dry.

Calvin Klein Synthetic Yoga Pants, $44, Amazon

9. Skipping Your Shower

This should be an obvious one (because let’s be honest, if you’re working out as hard as you should be you probably stink afterward) but showering after you exercise is an absolute must. Leaving sweaty bacteria on your skin can cause breakouts (hello, bacne.) and cause gross infections. Leave yourself enough time at the gym to rinse off (with soap, please), or at the very least rub yourself down with some baby wipes.

Mrs. Meyer's Basil Bar Soap, $4, Amazon

Seventh Generation Baby Wipes, $3, Amazon

Images: a.balanced.life, kristinmcgee, a.balanced.life, biiancagacek_1914, ivonne_lujan, venlasavikuja, gingerandkoi, _vanessarachel/Instagram