Four Things You Should Always Do Following Exercise
When you are finished with a workout, you may feel that you don’t even have to think about anything fitness-related until your next workout. However, a fantastic workout is only one aspect of getting the most from a habit of regular exercise. There are certain things you should always do following exercise. Here are the four steps to follow.
- Stretch. Immediately following a workout is the perfect time to stretch. Your muscles are still warm and loose, making it much easier to work your body into good stretch positions. Stretching is an immediate way to begin the recovery process, warding off areas of tension and pain before they show up. Stretching is thus a key part of injury prevention. A good stretching tool is a foam roller, which helps recovery by directing blood flow to targeted muscles and breaking up knots.
- Rehydrate. Workouts (especially cardio workouts) use up a lot of fluids. Replenishing these fluids both during and immediately after exercise is important. While plain water is certainly valuable, refueling with sports energy drinks such as Gatorade is a good way to replenish electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals used to perform basic bodily function. Intense exercise uses up a lot of these minerals.
- Eat well. During exercise, muscle fibers suffer tiny tears. In repairing these tears, the body builds back larger, stronger muscle. Since protein is used to grow muscle, eat a meal with plenty of protein following exercise. Complex carbohydrates and healthy fats are needed too. Giving your body a head start on recovery by eating within an hour of exercise is a good idea. In general, emphasize eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and lean, nutritious proteins, while minimizing how many processed and sweet foods you take in.
- Get good sleep. Sleep is an essential element of a healthy life, perhaps as important as working out itself. In particular, sleep is when the body recovers from the stress placed upon it by a strenuous workout. Without proper sleep, your body won’t fully bounce back, and you won’t be at your best next exercise session — especially since lack of sleep slows response time and worsens focus. Sleep is also vital to growing new muscle tissue, as the hormones that grow muscle are released during sleep.
Exercise itself is only one element of a healthy lifestyle. To get the most out of exercise, you must follow the four rules seen above. Going hard during your workouts is not on its own enough to ensure you get all you can from regular exercise.