After your final lap, lift, or plank, it can be tempting to call it a day with your fitness routine. However, if you aren’t engaging in any rest or recovery activities, you aren’t doing your body justice. Not only can some of these recovery tools nourish your body and mind post-workout, but they can also lead to more muscle gain, weight loss, and most importantly, prevent injury. Here are 10 easy things you can do after your workout to encourage recovery.
Meet the Expert
- Annie Mulgrew is the Director of Programming at CITYROW.
- Kevin Carr is a licensed massage therapist, certified functional strength coach, certified strength and conditioning specialist, and co-founder of Movement as Medicine in Woburn, Massachusetts.
Exercising can cause the body to become dehydrated, especially if you are working out at high intensities and sweating. CITYROW's Director of Programming, Annie Mulgrew, agrees that sweating can lead to dehydration as you lose fluids and salt. She stresses the importance of drinking water after you exercise and consuming hydrating foods high in potassium, like dark leafy greens, to replenish your fluid reserves.
Do Breathing Exercises
Kevin Carr CFSC, LMT explains that diaphragmatic breathing can be an effective tool to jump-start your recovery and push your body towards a more parasympathetic state. “Try box breathing by breathing in the nose for four seconds, holding your breath for four seconds, breathing out the mouth for four seconds, and then holding for four seconds,” he suggests, “Repeat this process for five minutes.”
Building stronger muscles is a good thing, but it can cause them to become tight as they are constantly forced to contract. “Do a mix of dynamic and static stretches (think: walking knee hugs into a standing quad stretch) after you cool down from a workout to ensure that you lengthen the muscles that you worked,” Mulgrew suggests.
Wear Recovery Footwear
You might want to rethink wearing those stilettos after a workout. “As an athlete working out is only half the battle. Workouts break us down, but proper recovery is what helps to build us up to get better,” Carr explains, “Footwear like OOFOS can help to enable mobility, support the tissue and unload the joints in the feet and lower legs—so you can recover following high impact workouts that involve exercises like running and jumping.”
Bathe in Epsom Salt
Soaking your muscles can do a body good. “One of my favorite ways to recover after a tough workout is a hot bath with Epsom salt (you can buy at any drug store),” Mulgrew explains. Epsom salt has been used for centuries as a pain reliever and muscle relaxer. Just pour a handful into a nice hot bath and soak for a half-hour to allow the magnesium to work its magic on tired or overworked muscles.
Use a Foam Roller
If you don’t already own a foam roller, now is the time to get one. “Foam rolling is like a self-massage for your muscles,” says Carr. “By rolling over your muscles, you can reduce the resting tone in the muscles, allowing you to stretch more effectively.”
Take Active Recovery Days
Every day doesn’t need to be an all-out effort day. Mulgrew suggests scheduling active recovery days to your workout regime like yoga or going for a long walk. “There are definitely days where I decide to take it slower on my CITYROW GO MAX by taking a yoga class,” she reveals. “Not only will this help the body recover by keeping it in motion at a lower intensity, but it also gives your brain a break from having to focus on pushing your body in those maximum intensity workouts. Spending time connecting to your body in more subtle ways can do wonders for your overall mindfulness.”
Take Rest Days
Don’t overlook the importance of a rest day. “If you are working out at high intensities, you must take multiple rest days a week for your body to recover so that it can continue to perform at those intensity levels,” says Mulgrew. Why? Exercising adds stress to the body, and too much of it is not a good thing—and can even have an adverse effect—including anxiety. “Even professional athletes take rest days,” she points out, “I work out three, no more than four days a week. Resting doesn't mean that you don't get out of bed, but you should schedule at least one-to-two days a week that you let your body truly recover.”
Yes, your diet can impact recovery post-workout. “Adequate protein intake is a necessity to recover from strenuous exercise,” says Carr. He suggests striving to include a protein source at every meal to ensure you are getting enough to rebuild your muscles.
Take Your Omega-3s
Carr points out that fish Oil, or omega-3 fatty acids, is one of the most valuable supplements you can take for your overall health. “Omega-3’s have a strong anti-inflammatory effect that can help keep your brain and joints healthy.”
Kreher JB, Schwartz JB. Overtraining Syndrome: A Practical Guide. Sports Health. 2012;4(2):128-138. doi:10.1177/1941738111434406