The Most Important Things to Do AFTER Your Workout

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

Recover, recharge, rest and make the most of your workout with these post-workout tips

You’ve got the workout apps, the gym membership, your favorite YouTube videos bookmarked… all in all, you’ve got the workout portion of the workout covered (you even know your workout personality). But what about after you complete your workout? Is there anything you should be doing to maximize all that time (and sweat) that you just put into your workout?

The answer is yes. There are absolutely some things you should be doing after your workout to ensure that your body properly cools down, recovers, and recharges. Not only can these actions ensure a safe and healthy workout experience, but can actually work alongside fitness goals you might be trying to achieve.

Are you taking all of these actions after your workout?

Recover with a Cool Down and Stretch

A lot happens in your body when you work out. Your blood flow increases in order to deliver more oxygen to your working muscles, your breathing speeds up to support this increase in oxygen demand, your heart rate increases to circulate this oxygen throughout your body, your body temperature increases with all this activity, and not to mention the changes in your muscles that are actually performing the action! Stopping a workout without cooling down is like expecting a car to go from full speed to a halting stop. Can it be done? Sure, but that can’t be good for the car (or for your body).

A successful cool-down only takes about 5 minutes and its job is to bring your body from 60 mph back to a steady-state of existence. While a cool-down can’t be expected to eliminate soreness from your body or completely prevent any injury, its effects are still super beneficial. A quick 5-minute cool-down can help bring your heart rate back to normal, slow down your breathing, and, if stretching is included, allow for better flexibility and muscle recovery.

What actually is a cool-down? It can be any lower-intensity workout done with the intention of lowering the heart rate. This can look like a slow jog, walking, or even stretching. In fact, the benefits of stretching alone are enough to encourage a cool-down. We all know stretching improves flexibility, but did you know it can reduce injury, improve your performance, improve your coordination, and increase blood supply? A post-workout stretch is definitely a routine worth building into your workout plan if it isn’t already.

Recharge with a carbohydrate-rich snack 30 minutes after exercising

In order for your muscles to perform the movement your workout demands, they need to get energy from somewhere. Your body’s favorite energy source is carbohydrates. Yes, carbs have a bad rep but trust me (and trust the experts), it’s true! This is because carbohydrates are more easily broken down into glucose, or sugar, which the body uses for energy. Just like a kid in a candy shop, your body loves sugar. The glucose that is not immediately needed for energy is stored as glycogen in the muscle. And when you press play on your workout the stored glycogen kicks into action, supplying you (and your muscles) the energy it needs to downward dog or burpee to your heart’s content.

After a workout, your muscle’s glycogen stores are looking a little low. This is why immediately following your workout (the recommendation is within 30 minutes of completing your workout) you need to replenish your muscle glycogen and enjoy a healthy carbohydrate-rich snack. This not only allows for a quicker recovery of your glycogen storage but also enables your body to more quickly repair the muscle tissue. What does that mean? This means that if are working towards bigger muscles or greater strength than a healthy snack post-workout will be better supporting your body in meeting that goal.

Rest after your workout and don’t overdo it!

Hey, I get it– you’ve got big fitness goals you are trying to reach. You might have just started a new workout plan, or you just purchased a new monthly pass at that pilates studio, or you set a goal to lose weight by the end of the season. The temptation with working out is often to just push, push, push. But more is not always better when it comes to working out, especially if you are new to a workout routine.

It is super important to build rest days into your workout routine. During these rest days, your body is recovering from the demand you placed on it during your workouts. It is during this recovery that your glycogen stores are replenished, your muscle tissue repairs itself, and your body recovers from the stress and strain of your workout. These, among other rest actions your body takes, are necessary to allow for a safe and effective workout in the future. If you don’t build those rest days in, you are more likely to experience fatigue or injury.

As someone who has pushed myself to the brink of injury many times, it is harder than it appears to really value your rest days. What might feel like a lazy day can actually be incredibly productive in your overall fitness journey.

So there you have it! Don’t forget to recover, recharge, and rest after EVERY workout. Build these habits into your routine and you will be far more effective, successful, stronger, and (hopefully) injury-free in your fitness journey.

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