Keeping your body healthy and strong doesn’t end with an hour-long workout, however grueling that session might be.
Proper self-care is a key factor in speeding up your recovery process, and as a consequence, ensuring your progress with your workouts and keeping your body pain-free.
But what does self-care actually entail?
For many, it’s a long bubble bath, a little home-spa pampering, or maybe even meditation.
And I’m all in for that, but if you are somebody who goes to the gym often (and since you are here and reading this, you most probably are), there are a few recovery steps that should start right after your workout ends.
During a workout, your body builds up metabolic waste such as lactic acid, which later on gives you that “wonderful” feeling of muscle soreness.
A great way to flush that lactic acid out and reduce its aftereffects is to take 5-10 minutes after you’re done with your training and do some light cardio of your choice, which will slowly decrease your heart rate.
Focus on deep breathing.
2. Foam rolling and stretching
I feel like foam rolling gained a lot of popularity in the last few years and that is well deserved.
You can do it both before and after a workout to break up “knots” in the soft tissue, improve flexibility, and boost blood circulation.
While it is never painless, targeting that superficial layer of tissue and fascia connections will also help you get a better and deeper stretch afterward.
Isometric stretches are great!
Following the foam rolling action, you might want to devote a few minutes to isometric stretches.
These will help you calm down your nervous system and improve your mobility.
Hold a stretching position for at least 15 to 30 seconds and focus on finding that sweet spot where the stretch feels uncomfortable but not yet painful to avoid any muscle strains.
In fact, all of that is something that I do not only after training but on an almost everyday basis.
3. Hydrate and hydrate and then hydrate again
Now, I know you’ve heard that a million times – hydration is crucial to your overall health and even more so when it comes to working out.
Tap water doesn’t always cut it.
But as I slowly started to increase the volume and the intensity of my training sessions, I noticed that my tap water-filled bottle wasn’t cutting it anymore.
It was still fine during my workout, but I could definitely use something more after.
Replenish those electrolytes!
Not really a surprise, since I was sweating a ton for prolonged amounts of time (especially during the warm months).
As a result, the electrolytes in my body got out of balance, and this caused me to feel lethargic and my muscles to cramp (not only during my workouts but sometimes at night as well – definitely NOT a fun way to be woken up).
Does this sound familiar to you too?
If so, I have a great suggestion for you – try out my delicious and energizing home-made electrolyte drink!
It’s absolutely great for sipping on it after a workout, while you wait for your meal to get ready.
The lazy solution – coconut water!
In case you’re looking for an on the go option, something you can pack in your gym bag and enjoy on your way home, I have an answer for you as well – coconut water.
It’s naturally rich in electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and manganese.
Give it a try!
4. Take a cool shower
Honestly, this is the hardest thing to bring myself to do, but it is very much worth it.
You’ve probably seen how professional athletes take ice cube baths, and there’s good reasoning behind that.
The cold helps to decrease inflammation after a workout, which in turn decreases the soreness and expedites the recovery and healing processes.
Now, you don’t need to go to that extreme, but lowering the temperature of your shower can prevent some pains and aches during your workout on the next day.
5. Fuel up
You are probably tired of hearing/reading this by now but the post-workout time is all about recovery.
Just like the hydration tip: after it’s done with the sweaty fitness bout, your body is all starved for nutrients to help you restore and rebuild the distressed muscles.
The anabolic window and the myths
Don’t fall into the marketing trap of protein powder producers – the anabolic window is much longer than 30 to 45 minutes after a workout and you don’t need an extreme protein injection right after it.
What you need to do is stick to a consistent intake of wholesome, diverse foods, rich in protein, unrefined carbs, and healthy fats.
That being said, try to eat a nutrient-rich meal in the hour after you’re done with training, in order to give the body the necessary fuel for its post-workout healing processes.
However trite it might sound, fitness in all its forms is a lifestyle and it stretches far beyond your time spent at the gym.
Remember that whatever you do – running, bodybuilding, Crossfit – your organism needs proper care in all its forms.
Nourish your body and it will pay you back with a better, energy-filled life.
And before you go, if you found this helpful, consider pining it for later!