Whether you've taken up boxing, are a cycling obsessive or are training for your own marathon, it can be all too easy to focus all your effort and energy into the actual exercise itself. That's the whole point, right? We push ourselves to our physical limits so we can really enjoy that immediate flop onto the sofa afterwards, as we bask in the glory of a workout done well.
But you might actually be missing a trick here. Oddly enough, making the most of your downtime between sessions could be the key to help you reach your fitness goals.
What we're talking about here is workout recovery: Taking the time to properly rebalance the body between workouts. It's not only vital in helping your body mend itself after a bout of physical exhaustion, but it's also great at preparing muscles for the next workout in your regimen. Unfortunately, treating yourself to a few hours lying on the sofa in front of Netflix every time you complete a Barry's Bootcamp session doesn't count. No, unfortunately, recovery takes a little more thought, time and attention than that.
In fact, take it from Karlie Kloss, who, having recently completed the NYC marathon is a major advocate for workout recovery. In between each of her training runs, she implemented an entire routine of treatments, exercises and rituals to reset her body and to get the most out of every single run. And its pretty sage advice for whatever fitness plan you're currently working on. We suggest you keep scrolling for Kloss's advice on how to properly recover after a workout.
WATER, LOTS OF WATER
The first step in the recovery process is pretty straight-forward: Don't forget to drink. “Lots of water! Before and after every workout, I make sure to drink a ton of water," she told Well + Good. "And refuel my body with a protein shake and plenty of nutrients,” she adds.
And she's on to something here: Keeping your body hydrated is vital in supporting the protein synthesis process, in which muscles rebuild themselves after the strain of a workout. It's also important for regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, warding off muscle cramps and stopping you from entering any dizzy spells when things get particularly strenuous.
For anyone even mildly interested in fitness, this one won't come as a surprise.“I also make sure to take the time to stretch, use a foam roller on my legs to work out any muscle cramps or tension, and ice immediately after running to help my body recover,” Kloss told Well + Good. “These steps go a long way in preventing injuries and reducing how sore my muscles feel the next day.”
Running (already) sore limbs over a foam roller can be painful, but it will help flush toxins from the muscles and gently knead the fascia, or connective tissue, between them better than any stretching could.
Infrared saunas have been causing a bit of a stir of late, as the wellness set flock to specialist centres such as NYC's Higher Dose and L.A.'s Shape House to get their fix. And Kloss says she seeks solace in their muscle soothing effect too.
So why are they such a big deal? Well, these saunas use light to not only heat the air around you (like a traditional sauna) but to heat your body from the inside out, which in turn boosts circulation and flushes toxins from the body and out through the skin. The process is especially beneficial post-workout as it can counteract the lactic acid that builds up around muscles, soothing them back to their relaxed state. We've rounded up some of the best places to try an infrared sauna in the UK here.
Finally, Kloss reveals she's a fan of floating. No, we're not just talking about taking a dip in your local swimming pool, but actually spending an hour-long session in specialised floatation tanks that immerse your body in really (and we mean really) salty water. Any London-based readers should pay a visit to Float Works in Vauxhall, which runs hour-long individual float sessions in space-age pods.
According to The Float Guru, Vijay Ravikumar, it's the ultimate add-on to any fitness regimen. “Its high magnesium content lowers blood lactate levels, relieving muscle pain,” he promises. “It can also release endorphins into the bloodstream, which bind to pain receptors, alleviating aches."
Plus, the sensory deprivation of feeling completely weightless in the salty water can do wonders for your mental health too. In short, it's like a sports massage, only better.