Staying healthy and getting a good workout is more than just being able to start your very own home gym and putting together an exercise routine. Aside from the dedication and commitment needed to make your active lifestyle a habit, you also need to pay attention to what happens after a workout.
Your post-workout routine can improve the quality of your workout, and plays a significant role in your overall health and wellness. The next time you hit the gym, here are some dos and don’ts you should keep in mind.
- DO cool-down exercises
Taking your workout to a 10—or maybe an 11, if you like a challenge—and simply stopping after can mess with your body. Doing cool-down exercises lets your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal levels and prevents pooling or the buildup of blood in the veins. This also helps reduce recovery time.
- DO post-workout stretches
After getting your muscles pumped up from your workout routine, it may seem counterintuitive to stretch them while they’re sore. However, post-workout stretches can prevent any stiffness or further soreness. Additionally, it can also avert muscle contractions and promote rebuilding, letting you maximize your exercise gains.
- DO keep track of your progress
Your exercise routine should change alongside your progress—you need the right amount of challenge for your muscles without causing serious strain or harm. For example, if you did 20 push-ups last month, you can aim to do 25 this month.
Tracking your workout’s progress—with a trainer or by yourself—will show you its effectiveness, as well as parts you’ve improved and plateaued. It also serves as a concrete reminder of what you’re working towards.
- DON’T skip eating
A healthy, well-balanced diet should go hand-in-hand with your current routine. While many may advise you to have a snack or light meal before starting your workout, it’s also essential to eat after breaking a sweat.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should be eating junk food—your post-workout snack or meal should have carbs and protein. This will help give your body the energy it needs to refuel and repair itself.
- DON’T reach for a sports drink
Sports drinks are often sold as the perfect way to rehydrate after a long workout. Unfortunately, unless you’re running a marathon, these drinks may not be as effective as you want them to be. You may be taking in way too much sugar, calories, and other additives that your body probably does not need. Stick to good, old-fashioned water and get your post-workout nutrients from a meal.
- DON’T stay in your sweaty clothes
Admit it—you’re really tired after working out, and your tracksuit or yoga pants are comfy enough to consider spending the rest of your day in. However, not changing out of your workout clothes can have gross consequences like body acne and yeast infections.
It’s best to dry off or shower as soon as you can and change into a dry set of clothes. If you’ll be running errands or staying out after your workout, opt for sweat-wicking fabrics over cotton to prevent trapping moisture on your body.
- DO practice proper hygiene
Gym equipment can be some of the least sanitary things you handle in your daily routine, more so if you work out at a public gym. Handles, seats, and anything you touch can be a breeding ground for germs and bacteria.
Avoid rubbing your eyes or touching your face during and after a workout, and make sure to wipe down any equipment you use as a courtesy to the next user. Wash your hands, bring your clean towel to wipe your face with, and shower if you can.
- DO practice active recovery
After a long, hard day at the gym, your natural instinct may be to lie down or rest without moving around. However, staying sedentary for long periods of time after exercise can make you more prone to cramps or stiff muscles.
Instead, engage in “active recovery” with stretches and movements around every 45 minutes. Even something as simple as getting up and walking around at intervals can help keep your muscles from stiffening up.
- DON’T miss out on sleep
Getting a good night’s rest is essential for a healthy lifestyle and can be a big help after working out. The right amount of sleep will help your body heal and build its muscles, making you stronger and ready for the next challenge. Adequate hours of quality sleep can also help you avoid feeling irritated, lessen stress, and decrease the chances of overeating.
The fitness journey is never easy, making it all the more vital that you maximize your gains. These post-workout dos and don’ts provide a starting point for you to keep your body healthy and stronger. Like with getting the perfect workout, it takes some experimenting and figuring out to find what suits your needs best.