What you do after your workout is just as important as what you do during your workout in order to achieve your health and fitness goals. We’ve all probably been told to do the following post-workout activities, but how often do we actually make them a priority? As a fitness instructor, I can say that my clients who actually practice these post-workout habits show significant improvements in physical performance, flexibility, and strength. Being healthy is a lifestyle, and keeping that mindset even when you’re done working out will only benefit your well-being. Here are 5 post-workout activities you should do after every workout:
1. Cool Down– Whatever activity you’re doing for your workout, a cool down is necessary. You can’t take a car from 100 mph to a sudden full-stop without doing some damage to it. Your body is the same. It will perform better if you slowly take it from full speed to resting with a cool down period to allow proper blood flow and oxygen throughout the body. I’ll always incorporate a lighter exercise at the end of my class so that clients can slow their breathing and heart rate down while easing their muscles into less intense movements. If you’re running, take 5-10 minutes to gradually come down to a regular walking pace until your heart rate returns to normal.
2. Stretch– Post workout is the best time to increase your flexibility because your muscles are warmed up. Stretching also helps prevent injury and muscle soreness later on as your body cools down and your muscles tighten up again. I’m a huge advocate of holding every stretch for at least 2-3 minutes. Any less time and it’s hard to see positive results. The biggest mistakes people make when stretching post workout are not holding a stretch for long enough and bouncing in a stretch. You want to allow the muscles fibers to release with a steady pull, not with quick motions. There is such a thing as dynamic stretching, but I would do that as more of a warm up. People tend to avoid stretching the tightest muscles on their body because they hurt more, but those are the ones that need to be stretched the most. Go for that toe touch with straight legs or the glute stretch that you usually want to get out of within 5 seconds! Try our 6 dancer stretches for sore hips and thighs.
3. Hydrate– Drinking water after a workout replaces the water you lose from sweating. It’s also important for helping flush the lactic acid build up created in muscles when working out. I actually prefer not to drink water during my workout unless I’m exerting a lot of energy for more than an hour. A belly full of water can make it difficult to perform certain moves like crunches. Our muscles need hydration to perform and repair, so drinking plenty of water before and after a workout is essential. If you’re coming down from a really intense workout during which your heart rate was high, sip the water as opposed to gulping it down. Water taken in at a steady pace is more easily absorbed into the body. Coconut water is a great way to replace lost electrolytes. I recommend staying away from sports drinks like Gatorade because of the high sugar content and artificial ingredients.
4. Wash Your Hands and Face– Gym equipment and public workout spaces harbor tons of bacteria. I always wash my hands after a workout to avoid getting sick and rinse my face to keep a clear and healthy complexion. Keep the sweat, dirt, and bacteria from settling into your pores for the rest of your day by showering or heading to the sink as soon as you’re done with your workout. Doing so prevents workout-associated breakouts.
5. Refuel– Refueling your body is essential to building muscle and helping the muscle fibers repair after tearing. After a workout, I don’t feel like eating anything too heavy, so I tend to go for something easy to digest like a healthy smoothie. One of my favorite blends includes almond milk, ice, spinach, strawberries, banana, chia seeds, and hemp protein powder. Both high in protein and hydrating, a snack like this within 30 minutes to one hour after your workout will help keep your energy up and build lean muscle. Try our yummy Coconut Almond Green Protein Smoothie.
Post-workout activities can either hinder your progress or help speed it up. Try incorporating these 5 things at the end of your workout routine to successfully replenish and rebuild your body!
Also by Crystal: 5 Dynamic Stretches for Long Lean Legs (Video)
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Photo: Kevin Tyler Muncy