Most people exercise for the benefits they get from their workout: improved sports performance, better endurance, less body fat, added and even just feeling better. It’s somewhat instinctive to warm-up before a workout. You may jog in place a little, shake out your arms, do a few stretches, and some other movements to get your heart pumping and your body feeling loose before you exercise. After you’re done exercising, however, you may be tired, and taking the time to cool down and supporting your body post-workout may be the last thing on your mind. However, in order to maintain an exercise routine it’s important to recover fully after exercise. Recovery is an essential part of any workout routine.
Why Recovery After Exercise Is Important?
When we exercise our muscles breakdown, tiny fragments of protein within the muscle cells shatter. The more we exercise during a workout the greater the muscle catabolism (degradation). After any workout routine the muscles need to replace all elements lost, both proteins and energy stores need replacing for muscles to make a full recovery. But if muscles are not given enough time to recover fully before another workout is repeated then the muscles progressively become smaller. Therefore, Recovery after exercise is essential for muscle and tissue repair, strength building and energy replenishment. This is even more critical after a heavy weight training session. A muscle needs anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to repair and rebuild, and working it again too soon simply leads to tissue breakdown instead of building. For weight training routines, never work the same muscles groups two days in a row.
What to do after a Work-Out?
Taking care of your body after exercise will impact your muscles (their strength and soreness), how well your exercise is received and even how much strain you put on your heart. So if you’re taking the healthy step of exercising, be sure to extend it to include these simple, yet essential, after-workout tips:
- Stretch: Stretching is beneficial both after your warm up and before your cool down session, but if you only have time to do it once, you should do it after your workout, before you cool down. At this time, your muscles are warm and more elastic, and stretching increases your flexibility and maximizes the range of motion around your joints. You should stretch all the major muscles groups that you used during your workout.
- Rest or Cool Down: Time is one of the best ways to recover (or heal) from just about any illness or injury and this also works after a hard workout. Your body has an amazing capacity to take care of itself if you allow it some time. Resting and waiting after a hard workout allows the repair and recovery process to happen at a natural pace. It’s not the only thing you can or should do to promote recovery, but sometimes doing nothing is the easiest thing to do.
- Meditate: Meditation has many benefits similar to napping. It helps alleviate stress and calm the mind.
- Take a shower: Actually take a hot shower (or bath) for 3 to 4 minutes and then a cold shower (or bath) for a minute. The hot water encourages blood vessels to expand and the cold makes them contract. Three to five sets of this will speed up your blood flow.
- Post Work Out Nutrition: After depleting your energy stores with exercise, you need to refuel if you expect your body to recover, repair tissues, get stronger and be ready for the next challenge. This is even more important if you are performing endurance exercise day after day or trying to build muscle. Ideally, you should try to eat within 60 minutes of the end of your workout and make sure you include some high-quality protein and complex carbohydrate.
- Replace Fluids: You know it’s important to drink water during your workout, but it’s just as important to stay hydrated afterward as well. Experts typically recommend drinking an additional two to three cups of water within two hours of finishing your workout. You should then keep drinking water regularly, as even if you don’t feel thirsty it’s still quite possible to be dehydrated.
- Have a Massage: Massage feels good and improves circulation while allowing you to fully relax. A good sports massage on a regular basis is important. Realistically, most of us should try to go every month.
- Avoid Overtraining: One simple way to recovery faster is by designing a smart workout routine in the first place. Excessive exercise, heavy training at every session or a lack of rest days will limit your fitness gains from exercise and undermine your recovery efforts.
Taking fifteen minutes directly after the workout can greatly improve all these aspects. It is unfortunate most of us neglect this aspect of our training especially considering the majority of us already know these benefits. Arming yourself with recovery methods is essential to reaping the benefits of your strenuous efforts to maximize your athletic performance and your overall health.