Post-workout is blissful, sometimes painful, but always rewarding…especially if you didn’t want to do it in the first place. But, your post-workout ritual should involve more than a pat on the back and a fueling feast. Add the following five ideas to your usual routine to feel great, keep your favorite fitness apparel in good shape, and get the most from your kick-ass session!
#1 – Cool Down
The moment you lift that last weight or take your last step on a 45-minute run, don’t head straight for the door. Stopping immediately can lead to blood clots, dizziness, and even fainting. Instead, give your body the time it needs to cool down, especially after a high-intensity workout. The American Heart Association explains it this way:
Cooling down after a workout is as important as warming up. After physical activity, your heart is still beating faster than normal, your body temperature is higher and your blood vessels are dilated. This means if you stop too fast, you could pass out or feel sick. A cool-down after physical activity allows a gradual decrease at the end of the episode.
Luckily, cooling down just means spending a few more minutes moving your body. If you’re already running, slow to a jog and then to a walk. If you’re lifting weights or doing HIIT, take a walk around your gym’s track or cool down on another cardio machine, such as the bike. If you want to slow it down even more, enjoy a short, relaxing yoga flow.
Pair cooling down with your post-workout stretching routine (we’ll talk about this in a bit) to make the most of the time you have.
#2 – Undress Right Away
Toss those sweaty clothes in the hamper as soon as you get home. Keeping them on is not only bad for your skin, but can also decrease the lifespan of your favorite workout duds. According to “4 Ways to Make Your Activewear Last Longer”:
It is best to limit their exposure to sweaty skin and allow them to air dry. It’s best to remove your active wear clothing quickly because this not only reduces the lifespan of your work-out clothes, but it also can retain sweat and moisture which will lead to acne.
Don’t forget to give them a rinse if they’re extra sweaty too, which can help preserve the life of the elastic in your clothing. Mandie Mutchie, fitness enthusiast and former lingerie boutique manager, explains: “There are enzymes in our sweat that actually eat away at the material that gives us stretch.” Getting them off your body and rinsed will help your expensive fitness gear last much longer.
#3 – Write Down What You Did
If you don’t like tracking your workout while you’re doing it, take time at the end to jot down notes. This helps you track how you’re feeling during workouts — physically and mentally — and makes it easy to follow progression.
If you can remember weights and reps, take note of those, in addition to:
● How your body felt. Tired? Strong? A mix?
● Exercises that felt more challenging than usual and vice versa.
● Areas where you felt noticeable gains.
● How you feel post-workout. Hungry? Energized? Exhausted?
Use these notes as a way to get to know your body better. Patterns may begin to emerge, allowing you to realize things like: I need to eat more before my workout. Or, I always struggle on Mondays; maybe I need to switch to a different weekly schedule.
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#4 – Listen to Relaxing Music
Of the “four wacky post-workout recovery rituals” that Prevention contributor K. Aleisha Fetters tried, listening to relaxing music is one that she found to be enjoyable and helpful. The idea being that relaxing music helps your body return to baseline levels of cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure faster. Here’s what she has to say about her experiment:
I first chose to listen to Miles Davis to cool down following one high-intensity workout, and I did find myself falling asleep better that night (I generally work out at night!). So the next day, I tried it again with similar success. This one, I’m sticking with. In theory, the better sleep may have helped my muscles recover faster (though it was hard to tell), but better sleep was reason enough for me to stock my Spotify library with jazz and acoustic stations.
As Fetters suggests in her report, there’s minimal research around this post-workout ritual (there was a small study done in 2010), but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying or won’t work for you. Even a morning workout followed by relaxing music may set a calmer tone for the rest of your day, allowing you to feel less stressed at work — a win-win.
#5 – Stretch
Every fitness expert will tell you to stretch after your workout, but do you know why? Harvard Health explains:
Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.
The value in making it a regular part of your post-workout ritual is simple. You don’t gain many benefits from doing it once or twice, here and there. The value of stretching and how it benefits your muscles is only realized when you stretch regularly. As Harvard Health suggests, “The value of stretching is cumulative.”
Remember that post-workout stretching should be static, versus dynamic. At the beginning of a workout, you want to focus on the latter to get blood flowing to the muscles. At the end, the goal is to use slow, static stretching, which will help improve range of motion, relieve cramping, and help your heart rate return to normal.
Try Some New Post-Workout Rituals
If you’re looking to switch things up, give these simple ideas a try. You’ll feel more relaxed, give your muscles the love they need, and keep your expensive workout clothes in better shape. Don’t forget: The work isn’t done when your last rep is counted. Post-workout is just as important, so don’t skip it!
Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a full-time blogger. She is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, and the owner of her personal training business, Honest Body Fitness in San Diego. She’s written for Shape, Reader’s Digest, AARP, Snap Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, and others. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for health articles, workouts tips, and more!