7 Tips to Maximize Your Post-Workout Recovery
Your workout doesn’t just end when you stop training; in the time that follows, your body needs to recover from the intense activities it just underwent. This is a crucial process — a properly recovered body is a healthy body that will perform better in the future. However, this is something that many athletes don’t take into consideration.
Taking the steps to properly recover from your workout is incredibly important, but it can require a bit of willpower. Athletes who are used to being constantly on the go might resent the down-time required to recover from an intense training session or match, but it can increase their abilities and endurance down the line.
Over here at Jack City Fitness, we’re lucky to work daily with athletes of all kinds — and we’ve learned a lot from both our partners and our coaches. Some of them have shared their top tips on recovering after a heavy workout.
- Don’t Forget Your Vitamins
The consumption of vitamins are an integral part of any healthy lifestyle, and that’s especially true for athletes. Having low vitamin levels can significantly deter the muscle recovery process after a workout session, causing discomfort, pain, and difficulty maintaining athletic performance.
However, when we say “take your vitamins,” we don’t mean to pop a couple of cartoon character-shaped chewables. There are specific vitamins (and minerals) that should be consumed in tandem with physical activity:
- Vitamin C
Perhaps the most famous of all nutritional supplements, Vitamin C can be found in a host of everyday food items, most notably oranges and citrus fruits. It’s a crucial vitamin to the human body — a Vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy, which is fatal when left untreated. (Thankfully, this is a fairly rare phenomenon in modern USA.)
Vitamin C plays a large role in collagen synthesis, and is a known antioxidant. In fact, over the years, it’s even been used to help manage or treat a number of serious illnesses.
We recommend that athletes take a daily dose to reduce the inflammation and pain that comes from a heavy workout.
B-Vitamins have myriad uses, mainly relating to one’s energy levels. It helps one to absorb more energy from the foods they consume. In fact, it’s often the active ingredient in quite a few energy drinks and products.
Without the right amounts of B-Vitamins in their system, a person is susceptible to anemia and other health issues.
B-Vitamins are also known for their abilities to aid in one’s healing process. Wounds treated with Vitamin B-5 have been shown to improve and, like Vitamin C, it helps with collagen synthesis. Meanwhile, a B-5 deficit can lead to joint problems like stiffness and pain, which can make a post-workout recovery much more difficult.
- Vitamin E
Vitamin E has plenty of merits. While many take it in supplement or pill form, others use it as a beauty or skincare product! It’s a known antioxidant, and is often used as part of an arthritis treatment plan.
For athletes, Vitamin E is a powerful tool for aiding muscle and joint recovery, and it can also help to alleviate soreness and inflammation after intense physical activity.
- Nourish Yourself Correctly
Sure, we all have days where we don’t eat well, but after hitting the gym a poor diet isn’t a very wise option. Ditch the sugary treats and empty calorie snacks, and instead look for a nibble that will satiate your hunger, energize your body, and help your muscles to recover.
Is such an item available? You bet. After a workout, we highly recommend that you consume plenty of protein. Consuming protein-forward meals after a workout will allow one’s body to enjoy an easier recovery, and help it to perform better in the future.
Though protein is a key factor in muscle growth and recovery, it’s not always the easiest thing to consume during a busy day, especially right after a workout. When cooking or preparing a meal isn’t an easy option, there are still many ways to give yourself the post-workout protein that your body craves. Athletes favor protein shakes and smoothies because they don’t require a lot of time to cook, create, or consume, but they pack a serious punch. They also come in an enticing array of flavors and variations; a simple internet search will come up with hundreds of combinations of fruit, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and protein-laden whey powders.
- Whip out Your Yoga Mat
Though it’s also important to rest your body after a workout (see tip #7), a bit of stretching is equally helpful in supporting post-workout recovery. That’s why many of our partners follow their workout with some yoga. This doesn’t mean diving into an hour-long bikram class — we recommend a ten (or so) minute session. Doing this helps ease muscles back into a healthy resting state, as opposed to suddenly dropping their activity levels from a hundred to zero.
We recommend beginning this post-workout routine by laying on your back, and engaging in focused breathing; three breaths in, hold for three, exhale for three. Gradually build your breaths up to six, and then perform a vinyasa flow. Repeat this entire sequence over the course of ten minutes and you’ll be amazed by how great your body feels later. You can end by laying flat on your back again for a few minutes, if you’d like.
- Decompress…in a Pair of Compression Socks
Seasoned travelers always pack a pair of compression socks in their carry-ons when they fly long distances. Countless diabetes patients utilize them to manage edema in their feet and legs. But that’s not all. These handy garments have even more health benefits than you’d ever expect from a pair of stockings. As it is, many athletes and fitness enthusiasts swear by the use of compression socks for post-workout recovery.
Compression socks are revered by the modern athletic community for their ability to help reduce swelling after an intense gym session or sports match. To make use of compression socks after a workout, take a refreshing shower, dry yourself thoroughly, and then pull them on. It will help to keep the blood flowing to your legs while you wind down from your session.
Many runners also wear them during races to keep the circulation in their leg and calf muscles strong.
- Take the Plunge
If you’ve never tried taking an ice bath after a heavy workout, prepare for your mind to be blown. If you ask us, this is a game-changing experience — and it ticks all the boxes for a good post-gym routine:
- It’ll Wake You Up
Post-workout fatigue is certainly uncomfortable, but it’s not permanent. Take a big gulp of electrolyte-laden water, and then try jumping into an ice bath. When you reemerge, you’ll feel refreshed.
- It’ll Cool You Right Off
When you’re blotchy, red, and dripping with sweat, there’s nothing quite like an icy plunge or even a cold shower to cool your system down.
- It’ll Heal Your Muscles
Most importantly, an ice bath is a great way to get your circulation flowing in a way that heals your tired muscles. When you enter an ultra-cold body of water, your blood vessels constrict and drives blood flow away from your muscles. Then, when you step out of your ice bath or a cold shower, those vessels will open again, and the blood that flows through them (and back to your muscles) are more oxygenated than before. In turn, your muscles are given better tools to heal from their stress.
- Hydrate Your Body
No matter the occasion, it’s always important to hydrate. Hot weather? Drink up. Not feeling well? Flush it out with water. Pushing yourself physically? Better find something with extra electrolytes.
Yes, it’s true. Without water, we wouldn’t be here. It’s crucial to all forms of life, and has more uses than we could ever list in one blog. So, let’s focus on hydration in the scope of muscle and post-workout recovery.
The concept is simple enough: when you engage in a heavy workout session, it’s likely that you’ll sweat quite a bit. That’s a very normal part of exercise, but it has its drawbacks. When one sweats excessively, the body loses a lot of water, which is crucial to muscle function. The result is a weak feeling and difficulty performing physical tasks. To combat this, be sure to drink plenty of hydrating fluids before, during, and especially after your workout. Plain water is always ideal, but we recommend drinking something with electrolytes or other hydrating elements while winding down from a workout. That can mean unflavored coconut water (it’s potassium levels aid in liquid absorption,) or low-sugar sports drinks with added electrolytes. Many stores also carry electrolyte powders and tablets that can be added to regular water — great for hydrating on the go.
- Give Yourself Time to Rest
Life can be very busy, and that can take a toll on your body. When you leave the gym, the sports field, the running track, or wherever you’ve been working your body and honing your muscles, take some time to yourself. Don’t just barrel into your next responsibility, whether that’s work, school, family life, errands, or more physical activity. Take a break. You need it to unwind, both mentally and physically. It doesn’t need to be an extended break, but even ten minutes of post-gym relaxation and self-care can make a big difference in your mental and physical health.
A few ideas?
A short meditation session will restabilize you physically, mentally, and spiritually before you carry on with the rest of your day. There are many apps and websites that offer guided meditations, or you can practice one of your own.
- Call a Friend
While you drink your electrolytes and let your compression socks work their magic, why not give your best friend a call? A quick catch-up with somebody you love is a great way to relax and feel emotionally fulfilled. (Plus, you’re dying to tell someone about the person you’ve been flirting with in your conditioning class.)
- Sit Outside
This option is perhaps more ideal during some times of the year than others, but we can’t ignore the restorative values of the great outdoors. By spending a few minutes outside after your warmup, you’ll feel rejuvenated by the fresh air, natural breeze, and exposure to a bit of sunshine.
- Listen to Music
Before you press on to your next activity, give yourself time to sit still and listen to your favorite song. Don’t use your phone or engage in other distractions, just close your eyes and relax.
- Take a Scenic Route
If you’re driving to work, school, or another responsibility after your workout, give yourself the gift of a nice view and take the more scenic route to your destination. It’ll be a pleasant treat just for you.
Bonus? If you’re in Boise like us, you know that almost every route is a scenic one.
Without a great gym, there’s no intensive workout to think about, let alone recover from. Come visit us over at Jack City Fitness, where you will find the best workout options that Boise has to offer. Looking for a group class atmosphere? We offer everything from yoga to elite movement classes for large and small groups. In search of the perfect training facility for your sports team? Our team training sessions are famous across the entire Idaho athletic community. Hoping for something more private? We offer specialized one-on-one coaching sessions, as well as remote and online coaching.
Our mission to help you become your fittest, favorite self has also led us to hire a nutritional counselor to our team, as well as keep our facility open 24-hours a day for our partners.
Ready to meet us? We’re certainly ready to meet you. Give us a shout online or call (208)-999-1111 to sign up for a FREE fitness consultation here at our gym. While you’re here, you can say hello to our team, peek into our classes, and see why we’re Boise’s number one fitness center!