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in Fitness, Q&A, Self Care, Wellness

5 Things To Always Do After A Workout

  • January 27, 2016
  • By dteix
5 Things To Always Do After A Workout
Post Workout Cool Down

photo by Ernesto Delfino Fotos

Do you rush out of your exercise class before the instructor gives her final “woohoo”? Are the wheels on your spin bike still spinning when you are out the door? Is your heart rate still pumping through your chest when you jump in the gym shower? These are all signs that you’re rushing out of your workout too quickly and on to something else before it’s time, and that could be working against you. It’s time to make time for your post-workout routine.

I’ve taught classes and trained clients for nearly 2 decades and watched people come in late and leave early, always rushing from one thing to the next. It’s understandable that fitness enthusiast only have a limited amount of time to get a calorie burn before they have to be at the office, pick up the kids, or meet for coffee, but what is not being “fit in” is the necessary steps to your post-workout.

Skipping your post-workout routine could lead to:
  • decreased weight loss results
  • muscle pain
  • inadequate muscle recovery
  • decreased muscle building
  • dehydration
  • injury
  • fainting
5 steps to include after every workout:
  1. Warm-Down/Cool-Down: You notice it’s 8 minutes to the end of class and your instructor has decreased the intensity of the workout. This is not the signal to grab your gym bag and go. Warm-downs and cool-downs are a necessary part of your total workout. First off, the differences between them are that a “warm-down” keeps the body moving at about 50% of the intensity you have been keeping during the peak phase of your exercise, such as running on the treadmill at 5% incline and 7mph. The warm-down may be at 2% incline and 5.5mph for a quarter mile. This always your body a transitional period from giving it’s all for those 20+ minutes to regrouping before you come to a walk. The “cool-down” is a much lower intensity after the warm-down where you might bring the treadmill to 0% incline and walk at 3.3mph. You are still moving, however the intensity has decrease significantly from your peak phase of the workout, allowing your body to cool its core body temperature and shuttle the blood from the working muscles to the rest of the body (more on that in #3). Coming to a quick stop after a workout and them sitting in your car could lead to cramping, muscle strains, overheating, and injury. In addition, this step is a chance for you to relax and use this short period of time to reflect on the workout and breathe. Enjoy it!
  2. Foam Rolling/Stretching: Studies show that post-workout foam rolling and stretching can increase flexibility, range of motion, and decrease muscle soreness. Taking advantage of the heat in your muscles during your cool-down provides a perfect opportunity for your muscles to reach a longer range of motion which can improve posture and joint tightness caused by muscle shortening. This improvement carries over to flexibility, which slowly goes downhill after adolescence. When was the last time you were able to bend over and touch your toes or reach your arms behind your back and press your palms together? And then there’s yoga….ouch! Spending 5 minutes performing stretches from your neck to your feet will give you endless results. Foam rolling, also known as self-myofacial release, has grown in awareness by exercisers. Rolling on these foam cylinders provides the muscles and connective tissue the pressure it needs to alleviate tightness, realign facia and muscle fiber, and rid the body of lactic acid and byproducts. It’s true that foam rolling can be painful when you hit a tender spot, however the more spots your find, the more tightness your muscles has. As you continue to incorporate foam rolling and stretching into your routine the less trigger points you will encounter, the result….less muscle soreness after your workout so you’re not gingerly descending the stairs at home and improved joint alignment that will enhance posture and prevent chronic or acute pain/injury. Staying healthy and injury-free means more workouts ahead.
  3. Heart Rate Recovery: It’s an all too common assumption that your heart rate should go as high as you can get it for as long as you can keep it there. This is far from the truth. Read KYG’s article about calculating a safe and effective heart rate zone for your workout. Knowing what your heart rate is throughout your workout and post-workout go hand-in-hand because how hard your heart is working will determine where you are in your workout phase (link to heart rate monitor). If you end a workout right after a high intensity interval chances are your heart rate will be at the high end of your target heart rate zone, for instance, around 165 bpm. Stop the workout there, and much of the blood in your body could pool in the muscles that were being used. This can lead to your brain getting an inadequate amount of blood and you feeling lightheaded or fainting. I’ve seen it happen. You should never end a workout with a high heart rate. Give your self time to bring your heart rate down during the warm-down and cool-down phases. This time allows your body to circulate blood to all of the body, including the brain. It also cools the core body temperature, and excretes lactic acid and exercise byproducts that cause DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Observe your heart rate during your workout and before your get off your indoor cycling bike, be sure that your BPM have dropped by  at least 20 (i.e., 165 bpm during last hill climb, 145 or less before unclipping). You’ll feel better and have cooled down so that you don’t keep sweating during your shower.
  4. Drink Water: The myth needs to stop here….refraining from drinking water will not make you weigh less on the scale. In fact, just the opposite, being dehydrated by only 1% can effect your metabolism negatively. Your body’s need for H2O is more than most of us realize, read more on KYG’s Are You Drinking Enough Water link, and its need after you exercise is of high priority. When professional athletes train and compete, their trainers calculated how much they weigh before the workout and after. The difference tells them how much body water was lost and how much will need to be replaced for adequate hydration. They know that even a fraction off of needed water in their athlete can mean seconds lost in winning their event. Ok, so you’re not a professional athlete, but you should be thinking of your workout routine as training. You stick to an exercise schedule, you’re trying to improve your distance or performance, so yes, you are an athlete. Treat your body like one. Drinking water before, during, and after your workout will aid your body in cooling the core temperature as to avoid overheating. Water will hydrate your internal systems that will support lubricating your joints, increase your metabolism, and hydrate your organs and cells. Electrolyte drinks are not necessary unless you are exercising for 90+ minutes, and definitely stay away from caffeinated beverages while exercising, they act as a diarrhetic which dehydrate you even more. Drink down 8oz of water during post-workout  as part of your cool-down routine, you’re body will thank you for it.
  5. Eat Protein: Do you know what is happening to your body while you workout? If you are challenging your body to lift more resistance, climb steeper hills, increase repetitions, and otherwise do more that it did the last time you worked out, then you’ve reached muscle fatigue or failure. This is a point your muscles need to get to so they can change in size and ability. It’s a good thing! The reason you don’t do back-to-back days of Bi’s and Tri’s is because muscles need 48 hours or more of recovery before you work them to that level again. During this time the torn or injured muscle fibers recover, rebuild, and improve their integrity so that it’s ready to take on the next challenge at that level, but it needs help. Muscle is made of amino acids from protein sources. Without the proper amounts and timing of amino acids, the recovery will be inadequate. Here’s where the 5th step of your post-workout routine comes in, EAT. By consuming 15-30g of protein 15-30 minutes after cool-down your muscles will soak up the nutrients and begin their job of getting you stronger and more capable for the next workout. Unfortunately, when we rush off to the next task on the list of our long day and skip this step, we will limit the results of that kick butt workout we just had. Pack a meal or snack for yourself and set a timer to remind yourself you eat it, check out KYG’s post of post-workout snack ideas.

Rethink your exercise routine to include the above 5 post-workout steps. All together it takes just 5-10 minutes of your time but delivers results that will help you get to your goals sooner, function effectively, avoid injury, and feel better overall. It’s a win-win!

By dteix, January 27, 2016
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About Me
As a mom, nutritionist, certified personal trainer, and wellness coach, it has been my passion for 20 years to educate others to live a life of clean eating, energizing fitness routines and lifelong habits for an overall feeling of wellness. Follow me in my pursuit to change the definition of the “over forty girl”.
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