Killing your workout is such a great feeling. Heck, in this busy world, even making it to the gym is a cause for celebration. One way to further the benefits of that workout is by practicing some healthy habits post-exercise, to give your body time to recover effectively so you can come back even stronger in your next workout.
Healthy post-exercise habits
While many of us enjoy that feeling of tired muscles — associating it with a good workout — it is also a signal that our body needs rest. Our muscles need time to rebuild and heal. Not listening to your body could result in injury, hormonal imbalances, reduced motivation to train, and negative impacts on the strength you’re trying to build.
Here are our top habits to boost recovery from your workouts:
- Hydrate. Simply drinking 20 ounces of water post-workout is sufficient. Drink that before coffee, tea, or anything else. It’ll help accelerate cellular repair and hydrate muscles, preventing stiffness. You could also try coconut water, which is great for replacing electrolytes. Try to avoid drinks with sugar or artificial sweeteners.
- Sleep. Aim for at least 8 hours. Sufficient sleep gives your body the opportunity to speed up muscle recovery and prevent injury.
- Foam roll. Using a foam roller reduces joint stiffness, increases range of motion, breaks up knots and adhesions in your fascia, and speeds up recovery post-exercise. You could do this in the gym directly after a workout or when you get home.
- Soak. Getting in the tub, or better still a float tank, is a great way to relieve muscle tension and fell better faster. At home, try using Epsom salts and an essential oil like lavender for relaxation. (But be sure to drink plenty of water, as the salts can be dehydrating.)
- Eat. Aim for protein-rich foods within two hours of working out to feed your muscles and look for a quality source of carbohydrates to replace glycogen stores. This will also help make your next workout go better! Protein-rich snacks include boiled eggs, cottage cheese, smoked salmon, chicken sausage, hemp-based protein shakes, sugar-free jerky, and oven-roasted soya nuts.
- Limit alcohol. Exercise dehydrates the body, and so does alcohol. Drinking after a workout will only make you sweat and further deplete fluids, leading to a horrendous hangover. If you are going out directly after a workout, drink a couple of glasses of water first. Then alternate each alcoholic drink with a fluid-replenishing one (soda and sugary fruit juices don’t really help).
- Light activity. Try going for a walk or bike ride after working out. It will improve circulation and can help to rid the body of metabolites in the muscle tissue that lead to muscle soreness.
- Get a massage. This will improve circulation, move lymph throughout the body, and ease muscle pain/tension. Plus, it’ll help promote relaxation so that you get a restful night’s sleep. We recommend the massage therapists at Lifelong Wellness to help you with workout recovery and optimal sports performance.
- Take time to recover. I know it’s easier said than done, but rushing to work or to another appointment straight after the gym isn’t ideal. Try to take your time. Have a shower, breathe, take five or ten minutes to relax before you head back out. Your nervous system will thank you for it, and things will feel more manageable.