For most of people, making it to the gym regularly or sticking to a scheduled workout is a big enough struggle. You might have to run home and let the dog out one day, then remember that you forgot to pick up milk and eggs from the grocery store, which leads to “tomorrow” becoming your mantra.
But, what happens when you make it to “tomorrow”?
You want results! And when do you want them? You want them now!
What a lot of people don’t realize is that getting up and exercising is but a single ingredient in the recipe. When others tell you they just “hit the gym” or “went for a run” with a heightened sense of accomplishment, there’s something they’re leaving out.
Their workout isn’t over. Neither is yours. When you think of working out, you should plan to maximize the potential benefits of the grueling sweat session you’ve just endured by stretching out periodically to relax and increase the blood flow to tight muscles or having a protein-rich snack to aid your muscle recovery. Heading to the nearest fast-food joint or grabbing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s are likely doing more harm than good, despite how much you feel deep down that you deserve them – and you definitely do.
This may all seem daunting because it requires a good deal of forethought and planning, which in the scope of the rest of your day just adds to the ball of stress growing in your chest. So, to make it easier on you, here’s a guide that maps out a few post-workout steps you can take to make your workout work, the way you want it to.
Stretching before a workout seems like second nature to most of us because it’s been drilled into your heads from the days when you climbed ropes in phys. ed. Despite what your shorts-clad, whistle-blowing overlords told you, passive static stretching (PSS) is best served after you’ve engaged your muscles in order to relax them and increase blood flow to stimulate muscle repair and help prevent future injury.
Working on your downward dog or channeling your inner Rugrat in child’s pose can be great ways to both relax your mind and body after a successful workout. Make sure you target the areas that feel the tightest to get the best results.
If you’re left wondering what you should do before you start your workout, try an active dynamic warm up (AD) that mimics and preps your targeted muscle groups for your planned workout.
It seems like common sense. Burn some gas then refill the tank. If only it were that simple, because once you get to the pump you have to make the all-important decision of putting in regular, plus, or premium.
Each person is different and has different fitness goals, which should be taken into consideration when you assess your nutritional needs after a workout to identify the perfect portions. To illustrate, there’s a very stark difference in the amount of food a powerlifter would need to facilitate muscle recovery, in contrast to a new mom trying to work off a bit of baby weight. However, the common denominator in both cases is the body’s need for proteins and carbohydrates during the recovery process. Proteins are the building blocks that repair your muscle tissue that tears over the course of a workout, and carbohydrates supply your body with energy in the time following your workout. Finding the right balance is the key. If you’re training for a 5k, a one to one ratio should serve you well, but if you’re trying to pack on a little mass, you’ll want to go a little heavier on the protein with a ratio that more closely resembles two to one.
A quick and easy way to recharge, especially if you don’t have the time or energy to commit to an entire meal, is through incorporating a nutritious snack. The prep time is minimal and you can achieve the desired result with a shake or smoothie packed with superfoods or a salad you can toss together on a whim. Here are a few high protein snacks that are great for recovery:
You hear it from everyone, all the time. It’s an old adage that has been beaten into the ground, and frankly, it’s really great advice. Hydrate! This isn’t truly post-workout specific, but it’s something you should have in the back of your mind around the clock because it affects your body before, during, and after a workout.
Your body uses sweat to cool itself down and prevent overheating, and you pay for that transaction by depleting your body’s fluid stores. To replenish yourself after a moderate workout, you can count on the reliability of water. For more intense workouts, you’ll want to consider an electrolyte-infused beverage. The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) recommends drinking:
Fruits like watermelon and grapefruit are also great sources of water and electrolytes.
You don’t have to go to the gym every day to achieve your fitness goals. Everyone, no matter how experienced or fit needs to give their bodies time to recover properly to maximize the benefits of their workout. It’s just as important as the actual workout.
Resting doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be inactive; it just means you should temper your activity. Think of it like a macro version of an interval workout where you need to rest in between each group of reps or sets to prepare for the next round – five days on moderate intensity and two days off at low intensity, for example.
Alternating muscle groups in your daily workouts is another important form of rest. If your main goal is to get arms like Michelle Obama’s, in addition to varying your workouts, you’ll likely want to have the legs to match. The Internet has shamed many for having the hubris to skip leg day, and you don’t want to become a meme for the wrong reasons.
Finally, the most important thing to do is to get a good night’s sleep. When you enter REM sleep, your body produces more growth hormone to help repair the damaged muscle tissue. Getting around six to eight hours of sleep of night is essential for your body to heal.