Updated: Aug 31, 2020
By: Reese Jones
While most people put all their effort into a workout, what they do right after is just as important. Your body goes through a lot of stress during a workout, so much so that muscles develop microscopic tears. It’s not all bad because, given the right post-workout routine, these tears repair and grow later on. That’s how the body adapts to workout stress and gets stronger. If you want to maximize your training gains, you need to follow mindful post-workout habits, too. Remembering these four S's can help simplify your post-workout routine.
There’s still a lot of argument as to the efficacy of stretching before a workout, but there’s no debate about its post-workout benefits. Cooling down with the right stretches helps prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which means you can recover faster. Focus on stretches that lengthen the muscles you’ve recruited in your workout. After a run, for instance, hold hips and hamstring stretches for 30 seconds. Also aim to incorporate drills like these to improve spinal mobility. One of those is self-myofascial release- SMR for short- using a foam roller, which Behara and Jacobson (2017) found to be statistically significant in increasing hip flexibility.
Showering after a sweaty workout is great for hygiene, but experts say that it also improves recovery. Physiotherapist Dr. Kristin Maynes explains that recovery showers can stimulate blood flow which lowers inflammation in the body and prevents soreness. She suggests alternating between cold and hot temperatures during your post-workout shower. The cold water reduces local inflammation and pain, like when you put an ice pack on a swollen foot. The hot water then flushes inflamed and dead cells out of the system which can improve recovery of muscles and joints. She continues:"If you are active in aiding your recovery after an intense workout [with] stretching, foam rolling, yoga, etc., then adding an alternating hot shower or an ice bath is going to help. Find out what works best for your body whether it be hot shower, ice bath, or both; stick to it and it will help you."
One of the most satisfying meals is the one you have after a workout, so it’s important to make it count. Self Magazine’s guide to post-workout nutrition notes that you can snack or eat a full meal, as long as you refuel right away. Rehydration is key, as well.
But don't feel like you're limited to a bland salad to 'be healthy.' CAC's Registered Dietitian, Robin Amylon, suggests "making your plate as colorful as possible, because you're going to get different nutrients from those different colors of vegetables." If you're stumped on what to fuel up with pre- and post-workout, reach out to Robin here.
Getting quality rest is one of the best things you can do for your body. Important muscle-building hormones are stimulated during rest. These include the human growth hormone, known to rebuild and grow muscle tissue after it’s been broken down. You also get to replenish your energy reserves as you sleep. This can help you feel more energized to work out and improve your athletic performance later on. A post-workout routine doesn’t have to be complicated; but it can help you maximize your training gains. Build your post-workout routine on these four principles — stretch, shower, snack, and sleep — and you’ll be well on your way to a fitter, better you.
Article written by Reese Jones
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