It’s somewhat instinctive to warm-up before a workout. You may jog in place a little, shake out your arms, do a few stretches, and some other movements to get your heart pumping and your body feeling loose before you exercise. After you’re done exercising, however, you may be tired, and taking the time to cool down and support your body post-workout may be the last thing on your mind.
|What you do AFTER your workout can mean the difference between sore muscles and fatigue, or stronger muscles and increased energy.|
But as you may suspect, establishing a proper after-workout routine is incredibly important. Taking care of your body after exercise will impact your muscles (their strength and soreness), how well your exercise is received and even how much strain you put on your heart. So if you’re taking the healthy step of exercising, be sure to extend it to include these simple, yet essential, after-workout tips.
Stretch Right After Your Workout
According to the Mayo Clinic, stretching is beneficial both after your warm up and before your cool down session, but if you only have time to do it once, you should do it after your workout, before you cool down. At this time, your muscles are warm and more elastic, and stretching increases your flexibility and maximizes the range of motion around your joints. You should stretch all the major muscles groups that you used during your workout.
If it feels more comfortable to you, you can also cool down and then stretch. Some experts recommend cooling down (to slow your heart rate) first, and stretching after.
After you stretch, it’s time to cool down (stretching is not all it takes to cool down). During the cool down, your heart, lungs and blood flow slowly return to their normal states, which is essential to reduce strain on your heart and help prevent muscle strain and soreness. It also keeps you from feeling dizzy, faint or sick after your workout.
To cool down, you should slow your aerobic activity down to a level that allows your heart rate to gradually decrease. A five-minute walk on a treadmill, for instance, works well.
|How High do You Prioritize Your Health, Really?
We all know how important it is to stay healthy by eating properly, exercising, getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and more. But knowing something intellectually and actually living it out in your day-to-day life are two very different things.
You know it’s important to drink water during your workout, but it’s just as important to stay hydrated afterward as well. Experts typically recommend drinking an additional two to three cups of water within two hours of finishing your workout. You should then keep drinking water regularly, as even if you don’t feel thirsty it’s still quite possible to be dehydrated.
Eat a Mix of Protein and Carbs
Though exercise is extremely beneficial, it does take a lot of effort on your body’s part. After your workout, it’s important to repair your muscles and replenish your glycogen stores for energy.
Most experts recommend eating something within 90 minutes of finishing your workout, but sooner is better. What should you eat? Ideally, a mixture of high-protein and complex carbohydrate foods. The protein helps repair muscles while the carbs will help give you energy. Some examples of healthy, post-workout foods include a tuna sandwich on whole-wheat bread, nuts and fruit, yogurt or cheese and whole-grain crackers or raw veggies.
Eating a combination of protein and carbs after exercise may also help to reduce muscle soreness, according to a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. Thirty minutes after finishing a workout, exercisers were given either a drink containing 6 percent carbs, 10 percent carbs or 8 percent carbs plus 2 percent protein. Those who drank the carb/protein beverage reported feeling only half as sore as those who had the carbs-only drinks.
So next time you exercise, remember that your workout isn’t complete until you’ve done these simple post-workout tips. They’ll ensure that you get the maximum benefits from your exercise, with a minimum of strain to your body.
- Cool down
- Stay hydrated
- Eat a mix of protein and complex carbs
The “How To” of Stretching: Tips for Stretching Effectively and Enjoyably
Stretching is one of the simplest yet most powerful ways to improve health and well-being and eliminate pain. Yet despite its simplicity, people don’t always stretch in a way that is safe and effective, much less enjoyable. As you have undoubtedly noticed, if you don’t enjoy something, you tend to stop doing it.
|“The best healing approaches empower us in our own self-healing and are often the most natural and enjoyable to do.”|
That Which You Enjoy Can Also be the Most Self-Healing
The best healing approaches empower us in our own self-healing and are often the most natural and enjoyable to do. They always include the element of relaxation.
As with everything in life, it’s not just what you do but how you do it that matters, and this certainly applies to stretching.
You can find all sorts of books with descriptions of stretches, but how you stretch is even more important than the actual stretches you do.
- Safety first! If you have had injuries, surgeries or have health concerns, consult with your health care provider about how to modify the stretches.
- Move slowly in and out of the stretches – this helps prevent injury and allows to body to relax.
- Pay attention to your body – it will tell you how far to go. You should stretch to a point of gentle tension, but not pain.
- Relax into the stretches. Muscles elongate naturally as they relax. If you notice some tension or “holding” in the muscles during a stretch, let it go. You may find that as you relax into the stretch, you find yourself stretching even further.
- Breathe slowly and deeply and pay attention to your breathing. This helps keep you to relax, stay aware of your body and helps keep you from being caught up in thoughts.
- Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. It has been found that holding a stretch for 25-35 seconds gives optimal results. Rather than count the seconds, you can time your breathing to find out how many slow, deep breaths you take in 30 seconds. Then you can time your stretches by counting your breath.
- What is important is for the muscle to experience movement and be stretched – not how far you go! If you are following stretches outlined in a book, for example, simply move in the direction of the stretch – you don’t have to move into any certain position to get the benefit of the stretch.
- Don’t bounce! You can injure yourself this way.
- Stretching should be pleasurable! If you are not enjoying the stretching, you may be trying too hard or straining to achieve a certain result. Stretching is not a competition, is simply an activity which benefits the body no matter what position you get into or how far you go.
The First Few Days are Always the Most Difficult – Don’t Let That Stop You!
When you first start stretching there may be some discomfort as you begin to stretch muscles that haven’t been used for awhile, but it should not be painful. Starting any new routine is usually awkward and uncomfortable at first. It can seem discouraging when we start to move and realize just how stiff or limited our bodies have become. But don’t let that stop you – if you start to stretch regularly, it will get better!
The first few days are the hardest and then it gets easier.
As we age, our muscles tighten and we have less range of motion in our joints. Simple activities that we once took for granted, like cutting our toenails, picking things up from the floor or zipping a dress, can all become difficult. A regular stretching program can help lengthen your muscles and make these daily activities easier and more enjoyable.
Stretching has so many benefits, including increased flexibility, improved circulation, decreased pain, more energy, and a greater sense of well-being.
There has even been research showing that stretching can relieve heel pain in those suffering from plantar fasciitis (an inflammation in the tissues in the sole of the foot).
Inflammation is the body’s response to injury, so if stretching is done improperly it could actually cause inflammation. And of course, inflammation causes pain. If the result of stretching is pain, chances are you’ve stressed the tissues and caused inflammation. According to Jacques, the key is the slow, deep breathing and holding the stretches for about 30 seconds.
If you aren’t stretching already, I hope this will inspire you to start. Even stopping from time to time during the day to “stretch out the kinks” is beneficial. Following the stretching guidelines above should help you to develop an enjoyable and effective stretching routine.