How do you spend the first 30 minutes after your workout?
Do you instantly run out of the gym, get into your car to sit, to quickly rush off to work where you sit more? Or do you spend 15 minutes walking or rowing down your heart rate, then mobilizing your areas of tightness or worked-over sore muscles from the workout to help with recovery?
Do you cruise to the coffee shop to grab your double shot latte? Or do you bring your post-workout meal with you to make sure you fuel your body with proper recovery nutrients as quickly as possible?
What you do immediately after your workout can have a major impact on your fitness performance and progress, and your overall health. It’s just as important as a proper warm up. If you are not properly cooling down and fueling after your workout, then you’re selling yourself short, limiting your recovery and future gains, and even putting yourself at increased risk of injury.
So how do you rate your athletic performance at the gym: Are you continually getting better and making gains? Do you feel that you are operating at optimal performance for each and every workout? Do you feel fully recovered from one day to the next? Do you feel that your body is completely supple, with epic form on every major movement? If not, check your post-workout routine and try making some adjustments.
Here are 4 ways to make your cool-down count and contribute to your fitness progress:
1. Walk slowly for a few minutes after you’ve finished high intensity work. Going from 100% max effort to zero in a split second can be hard on your body & heart, and at times you may even feel light headed or dizzy. A walking cool down helps regulate the blood flow to your heart, brain, and the rest of your body. It also speeds up the removal of any lactate in the blood created while working out.
2. Stretch. Relax, relieve muscle tension and prevent potential soreness. After class is when we lead you through various stretches to address the muscles that have been contracting over and over in the workout. Increase your mobility and suppleness by improving flexibility, rather than allowing muscles to get stiff and tight.
3. Give some love to your soft tissues. Use the foam roller and a ball after your workout. Address the areas you know get tight and try to break up stiffness and scar tissue. Also think about your body as a system and understand that working ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ from your problem areas will help your whole body. If it’s in your budget, schedule a massage on a regular basis and/or Active Release Therapy (A.R.T.).
4. Eat a good post-workout snack or meal within 30 minutes of your workout. It’s critical that you re-fuel yourself in this short window for proper recovery, and hydration so that protein synthesis won’t be interrupted. Prepare yourself some fast digesting carbohydrates in the form of starchy vegetables like sweet potato, plus protein like beef, chicken or fish. Eat real food! In addition, ensure you are properly hydrated with water and electrolytes if you feel it necessary.
These are all critical components to not only your overall health, but also your continued performance and progress as an athlete. If you don’t think you have time – make time – because the reality is your cool down and post-workout routine is just as important as the warm up and workout. Schedule the time for cool down and recovery, and have your food ready to eat. You will see a difference in you how you look, feel, and perform!