The things you do post-workout can make all the difference in your pursuit of fitness.
If you have a busy schedule, then there’s a good chance that you’re cutting corners post-workout. You may be making some simple mistakes that could be slowing down your progress. Here are six common post-workout mistakes that you should try to avoid.
Post-Workout Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Skipping Your Cool Down
A good cool-down can really help your body recover from any level of workout. Immediately after your workout is the ideal time to start working on improving flexibility. Your body is warm and your muscles are relaxed, allowing you to more easily stretch them to a point where they’ll improve. Stretching after a workout has also been linked to reduced post-workout muscle soreness. Skipping this important step may leave you feeling stiff and sore the next day.
Heating Instead of Ice
It feels great to get into a sauna or steam room after an intense exercise session, but the thermic stress that you put on your body is not necessarily good for you. During your workout, your body has to work overtime to keep you cool. Adding in extra heat post-workout may stress out your body, especially your immune system. Most athletes use ice after a workout, or a cold shower, to help with the healing process. Using ice as part of your post-exercise routine is good for helping with rejuvenation of the muscles and tendons that have been worked during the session. Focusing on post-exercise recovery will allow you to train at a higher intensity much sooner.
When you exercise, your blood pressure rises in order to cope with the increased demands you are placing on your body. If you just stop moving after pushing yourself during a workout, your body’s need for increased blood flow diminishes. Suddenly stopping your workout can make you feel dizzy or sick, so jumping right into the car post-workout may not be a good idea. Your best bet is to gradually reduce your exercise intensity, and then stop. A gradual decrease in intensity will allow your heart rate to slowly go back to normal, and your blood vessels will constrict back to their usual size. This will help your blood pressure to normalize in a more natural way. If you’re on a run, gradually reduce your speed and intensity over a 10-minute period until you’re eventually in a relaxed walk.
Not Taking Care of Your Skin
A lot of people finish their workout and leave the gym before washing their hands and face. They may be heading home to jump straight into the shower, but in that short time they can be spread germs and increase the chances of having an unnecessary breakout. Or worse, they can increase the chance of getting themselves and their family sick. Gyms are full of bacteria. If you’re using dirty hands to touch your face, then touch door handles, car steering wheels, etc., you’re putting yourself at risk.
The best approach, especially during flu season, is to wash your face and hands thoroughly before leaving the gym. If you have small children at home, consider removing your gym clothing that’s been in contact with mats and benches before touching your child.
When you exercise, especially in a hot climate, your body sweats in order to effectively cool down your body temperature. Forgetting to rehydrate after your workout can be dangerous, leading to dehydration and fatigue. As you finish your workout, be sure to start sipping an electrolyte-balanced drink to help your body recover and replace all of the fluid you lost.
Forgetting to Eat
Some people naturally feel hungry after a gym session, so they eat a healthy snack. Others are so busy rushing back to work that they forget to eat. Eating protein and carbohydrates post-workout can help your body to repair and replenish its energy stores. Forgetting to nourish your body after a workout can slow down your muscle-building results. If you wait too long to eat after your session, there’s a chance that you’ll be so hungry that you’ll overeat and make poor choices. This will only sabotage your weight management goals. Try to have a protein-rich snack within 30-40 minutes after your workout.
If you’re dedicated to your exercise routine and manage to squeeze a session into your busy day, make an extra effort to avoid these common post-workout mistakes. You’ll maximize all of your hard work and get the results you deserve. The last thing you want to do is train hard in the gym and have that hard work go to waste, because you’re making simple mistakes. Quite often it’s the little things that you do before and after your workout that make the biggest difference with your results.
By Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA – Vice President, Worldwide Sports Performance and Fitness
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