You just finished a sweaty workout, and you’re feeling accomplished.
So, what should you do next?
If you’re like most people, you probably want nothing more than to lie down and collapse on the couch. After all, you deserve the rest, right?
Unfortunately, that would be a big mistake!
As you’ll see in today’s post, what you do post-workout is just as important as the training itself. Make a mistake, and you’ll be setting yourself up for trouble. Commit more than a few, and you’ll find yourself in the danger zone. You don’t want that, and I don’t want you to end up there.
Here’s a list of eight post-workout habits that can negatively impact your training recovery, along with what you should be doing instead.
Mistake # 1: Stopping on The Spot
A common mistake some runners make is going from 40 to zero. To get the most out of your training, you need to take five to ten extra minutes to let your muscles cool down.
Here’s why. When you exercise, your blood pressure and blood flow increase to meet the high demands, you’re placing on your body.
By stopping on the spot, you diminish your body’s needs for increased blood flow. This can cause blood pooling in your extremities., and more often than not can lead to fainting, dizziness, or nausea.
Additionally, doing so can also cause delayed onset muscle soreness as blood pools in exhausted muscles.
Investing a few minutes into a proper cool down reduces heart rate, limits muscle soreness, and stabilizes blood circulation, all of which are key to comfortable and efficient training.
Whenever you reach the end of your run, gradually slow your pace over a 5- to 10-minute period until you’re walking at a relaxed and effortless pace.
Once your heart rate is back to baseline, start hydrating and stretching.
Mistake # 2: Forgetting to Stretch
Research on the effectiveness of stretching for preventing injury is still mixed, but that’s no excuse for skipping it altogether. Stretching is part and parcel of any training program — I cannot emphasize this enough.
Stretching your muscles post-workout improves flexibility, breaks down lactic acid, and speeds up your fitness gains. It also helps release tension and reduces muscle stiffness and soreness.
Skipping the stretch could hinder your range of motion, thus making you more prone to pain and injuries. When you take care of your muscles, they’ll take care of you. It’s that simple.
There are many stretches you can do to release tension and ease soreness after a hard workout.
Here are three of my favorite routines:
Mistake # 3 Forgetting to Hydrate
Drinking plenty of water is essential to overall health, but it’s even more significant during your post-workout window. Unfortunately, most people who are training don’t realize that they are dehydrated.
Your body needs to refill its fluid stores to function optimally. It’s paramount that you rehydrate properly following a workout, regardless of your training intensity, the weather, or any personal preferences.
As a rule of thumb, stay well hydrated not only during the hours immediately after a workout but all day long.
Though the specific hydration needs vary from person to person, as a general guideline, drink half of your body weight in ounces every day. So if you weigh 180 pounds, shoot for at least 90 ounces.
If you sweat a lot, get in an extra 500 to 600 ml for every hour of exercise—this is especially true when it’s hot out.
To make sure that you’re well hydrated, take a good look at your pee. If it’s dark, it most likely means you need more water.
Here’s the full guide to proper hydration.
Mistake # 4: Forgetting to Change your Clothing
Workout clothes might be comfortable, but failing to change out of your sweaty items is not only a smelly mistake, but it’s also dangerous.
Damp workout clothing retains moisture. Wearing it for too long post training can cause rashes, body acne, and bacterial infections including staff and yeast infections. Yikes!
Whether you jump into the shower right away or not, step out of your workout gear. Always have a clean change of clothes with you, including socks, underwear, a T-shirt, and (for the ladies) a bra.
If time doesn’t allow for a shower, make sure your workout gear is made of high-performance fabrics designed to keep you dry and comfortable. Stay away from cotton, which traps moisture.
Mistake #5: Eating Junk
You just shed some mad calories, so you deserve a treat, right?
Think again. Exercise is not an excuse to scarf down a burger and fries or to drink a chocolate milkshake.
Though exercising intensely for an hour burns a lot of calories, junk food is not what you should be consumed after a workout. This is especially true if you’re looking to lose extra pounds or to maintain a healthy weight.
You can’t outrun a crappy diet, no matter how fast you go. Give your body what it needs, which more often than not is not necessarily what your cravings are screaming for.
The list of foods to avoid post-workout is long, but here’s a start:
- Fruit juice
- Fast food
- Any empty calorie food
Not in the mood for a full meal? Just pack a healthy snack beforehand so you can refuel right away the right way, even if it means eating in the car.
The ideal post-workout snack will satisfy your cravings while helping to replenish carbohydrates and protein stores.
Good options include yogurt, fruit, low-fat chocolate milk, smoothies, nuts with cottage cheese, and turkey on whole wheat bread.
Mistake # 6: Embracing The Couch
It’s quite tempting to feel like you’ve earned a day lounging on the couch and Netflixing Mindhunters (I love that show!) after working up a lung-busting sweat, but you need to resist the urge to get your lounge on.
Here’s the truth. Research suggests that sitting all day can be almost as dangerous as smoking. In fact, studies show that people who sit for more than six hours per day face a 20 to 30 percent greater risk of dying from a major disease.
So what should you do? You got many options. For starters, do some form of active recovery. Spend 20 to 30 minutes performing activities like light yoga, foam rolling, core work, or functional bodyweight training.
Active recovery keeps your blood flowing, which assists with recovery and repair processes.
Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Trade your desk chair for an exercise ball
- Set a timer to go off every 45 minutes or so to remind yourself to stand up, leave your desk, and walk to another part of the office.
- If you spend a lot of time on the phone, take your call while standing up, and if it’s possible, walk around.
- Think about purchasing a standing desk (like this one), or stack a few hardcover books together, put your laptop on top, and work upright.
Mistake # 7: Not Tracking What You’re Doing
You can’t improve on what you’re not measuring. In fact, if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist. To see serious gains, you must track your progress.
Keeping tabs on your training helps you monitor your fitness progress (or lack thereof). It’s also ideal for improving motivation, both in the short term and the long.
If you ran 15 miles last month, that means you can (or should) run 17 miles this month. But how would you know that if you don’t keep track?
Whether you’re using pen and paper, a fitness app, or an Apple watch, assess whether you’re reaching your goals and be sure to keep tabs on everything related to your workout routine.
The statistics you track might include:
- Miles run
- Exercises performed
- Weights used
- Number of reps performed
You can also monitor your body weight and physique:
- Stepping regularly on the scale and record your weight
- Take before and after pictures
- Measure body circumferences
- Measure body fat percentages
Mistake # 8: Skimping on Sleep
Fitness growth starts the minute you hit the sack: it’s when your body begins to heal and build strong muscles.
The human body is just like a battery. It needs time to recharge. Proper snooze time is crucial to any healthy lifestyle. Not only does it improve recovery and performance, but good sleep also prevents overeating by regulating hunger hormones, and a myriad of other troubles.
Skimping on sleep increases the risks of stress, chronic fatigue, injury, irritation, mood swings, and more. It spells disaster for your overall health and well-being.
Sleep needs vary from person to person, but as a general rule, aim for at least seven to nine hours of shut-eye each night.
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To prevent making these common post-workout blunders, have a plan. Do not let yourself be rushed. Take time to cool down and stretch when you’re done, and always have a dry outfit to change into. The rest is just details.
Do you have any personal goofs you want to add to this list of post-workout bad habits?
I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.
In the meantime, thank you for reading my post.