The Best Post-Workout Habits for Recovery
Effective post-workout recovery is an essential part of any workout routine. Your after-exercise recovery routine has a big impact on your fitness gains and sports performance, as well as how much you are able to train each week .
A lot of post-workout routines focus exclusively on how to speed up your muscle recovery by reducing inflammation and swelling, but there are also many benefits that come from focusing on how to improve tissue quality.
This is where things get a little more complicated because you have two different groups of muscles: slow twitch which tend to be used for endurance exercises and fast twitch which tend to be used for strength training.
Why is recovery important?
After heavy workouts, it is important to let the muscles recover by taking some time off - this will help with muscle repair and building stronger tissues.
Working a muscle after it is close to but not fully repaired does more harm than good. As muscle fibers are rebuilt they need that time to create fresh and stronger tissues.
For weight lifting, as an example, it's important not to push the same group of muscles too hard for a second day in a row.
There are many methods of recovering from a workout, and of course, not one size fits all. These are some of the most commonly recommended by experts:
Be sure to top up lost fluids
It's common for people to lose a lot of fluids during exercise and ideally, you should be replacing it during exercise, but drinking water after your workout can be an easier way to boost your recovery.
Water supports every metabolic function and nutrient transfer in the body and having plenty of water will improve every bodily function.
Replacing fluids lost during exercise is essential for recovery, but how much you drink depends on how intense the workout was.
If you do a high intensity workout like running or cycling then drinking around 500ml (16oz) of water every 15 minutes should be enough to replace what's been lost; if it's less-intense then drinking a little less should be enough.
Focus on healthy recovery foods
A brutal workout can deplete your body of the stored fuel it needs to recover, repair tissues, and get stronger.
The best way to do so is by refueling with protein-filled meals after exercise .
The protein in a post-workout meal will help to build and repair the muscles you just broke down.
Eat within 60 minutes of your workout to ensure that you maximize workout benefits whilst still promoting muscle growth and repair.
Get some R&R
The best way to heal your body from a tough workout is time.
Be sure to give it enough time - the incredible thing about your body is that if you give it the time, it will do all of the work for you.
Resting after a hard workout allows the body's repair process to occur naturally.
It is not the only thing you can do to promote recovery, but sometimes doing nothing at all can be the easiest option.
After a tough workout, consider gentle stretching or switching to yoga when your body is in the process of recovering.
Bodybuilders, for example, know that a good workout requires adequate recovery time for their muscles if they are going to see results and avoid injury.
This should be the same mindset for everyone who wants their body to feel healthy and strong.
Consider active recovery
Active recovery can be an effective way to help your body recover from intense exercise.
It is best suited for people who are not injured and experiencing mild aches, but should not be forced if you're feeling pain.
Movements like cycling, a gentle walk, and light exercises can help your muscles recover more quickly.
In addition to how fast you have been pushing the muscle fibers during exercise, it is important to remember how much rest time they need in order for them to rebuild themselves back up stronger than before.
During this process, inflammation will occur which may lead to pain, but if inflammation does not go away it is important to see a doctor.
Have a massage
Incorporating a regular massage into your workout routine is an excellent way to improve your post-workout recovery.
Receiving a massage session shortly after exercising will help clear up any muscle pain and inflammation, accelerating recovery time.
Take a dip
Post-workout exercises help you recover faster and reduce muscle soreness, but some athletes swear by alternate water therapies like ice baths or hot showers.
The idea behind this post-workout method is that when blood vessels are constricted it flushes away waste from your muscles quicker.
Contrast Water Therapy:
Contrast bath therapy is a series of alternating dips in water.
Research has shown contrast hydrotherapy, or immersing oneself repeatedly in water at different temperatures, can help to lessen muscle fatigue and decrease pain following intense exercise.
Snooze, you (won't) lose
Resting enough before, during and after a workout is important to ensure optimal fitness, but it's best not to sleep right afterwards.
That can cause your body to produce less Growth Hormone.
Growth hormone is very important for muscle growth, healing and recovery so it can be beneficial to wait until you are feeling less tired before hitting the sack.
You should also avoid sleeping on your stomach, which can put pressure on the back and make it difficult to breathe.
A good rule of thumb is that if you feel sleepy following a tough workout, try getting up for 15-30 minutes before returning to bed to ensure an effective restful sleep cycle.
Focus on how much rest your body needs to recover, not how much time it takes.
Visualise your recovery
In order to recover from your workout quicker, it's important to visualise how you want your body to feel after the session.
A lot of athletes use mental imagery and visualization in association with their workouts as a way of setting goals for themselves.
If they can envision how they'll feel when they're done or how great they will look at the end, they will be more motivated to get through the tough parts of their workout.
The same can be said for how you recover after a brutal session at the gym - by visualising how your body should feel when it has adequately recovered from its exertions - energised and rejuvenated - then you are not only setting yourself up with positive expectations, but you are also helping your body to activate the necessary pathways for recovery.
Make a plan
One way to recover faster is to design a smart workout routine from day one.
Oftentimes, a common mistake people make when designing fitness routines is going ham at it every session and/or not resting days in between workouts.
For example, if you work out intensely for an hour on Monday and then do the same thing again on Wednesday, your muscles are going to be taxed and need time to recover.
The key is not pushing yourself too hard every day so that your body can have some days off in between .
If you plan your workouts that way, then it's easier for your body to repair the damage done.
You can even do a light workout on days when you feel like crap and don't want to move - recovery and down-time really is that important!
In addition, focus on how much weight or intensity was used during each session .
If you're lifting heavy weights and pushing yourself to the limit, then it's going to take a lot longer for your muscles to recover.
In contrast, if you are doing low-intensity workouts with light weight or even bodyweight exercises, then recovery will be much quicker because there is less muscle damage done during these types of workouts.
The most important thing you can do when recovering is to listen to your body and take care of yourself.
If you are feeling tired, sore, or feel a decrease in performance, then it's likely that your muscles were not given enough time to fully regenerate before being put through another rigorous routine.
Often we're the person to tell ourselves that our body surely can't be tired after a tough workout, or stay sore for days.
Our self-talk is what dismisses these warnings: "I can't be tired," "No one needs two rest days if they ran a lot yesterday."
Feeling great after a fitness session is important for motivation and can lead to better outcomes.
Make sure you have healthy food, rest, relaxation (massage), and plenty of fluids on hand following your workout routine so that you feel good now and in the future!
What are some ways you recover from workouts? Let us know if we’ve missed any big ones!