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Even if you're diligent in properly preparing for your workout and engage in moderate to intense workouts, you may not be getting the effects you expect. This may have something to do with what you do after your workouts. How you follow up your physical activity is just as important as how you prepare for those sessions.
Roll with it.
Just because you've finished your workout, that doesn't mean you're done in the gym. Grab a foam roller and practice self-myofascial release techniques, which simply means rolling your various body parts on the roller. This can often be as painful as the workout, but it's necessary to reduce trauma to the fascia, or the sheath covering your muscles. Taking the time to do this improves your range of motion, enhances blood flow, and breaks up knots in the muscles.
If you go back to a sedentary lifestyle immediately following your workouts, you're inviting blood to pool in your extremities. Instead, a cooling down period is necessary. During this phase of the workout, it's important to stretch your limbs, back, and torso muscles. Hold each pose for a minimum of 15 seconds. Your muscles will stretch better immediately following your workout because they're still warm and tender. This can also reduce the chances of knots forming.
Have a snack.
Once you're finished stretching, the next thing on your post-workout agenda should be to grab something to eat. Specifically, you'll want to eat something high in protein. The reasoning behind this suggestion is that there's an anabolic window, immediately after your workout. During this 30-45 minute period, your body is searching for protein and carbs to help rebuild muscle in the body. If you don't take advantage of this biological process, your body won't restore glycogen levels. As a result, you'll become extremely hungry later and will have the tendency to overeat, undoing all of the hard work you just put in towards your fitness goals.
Cool off with a shower.
Taking a cool shower after your workout does more than just clean the sweat from your pores. It also reduces inflammation throughout the body, which means you won't experiences as much soreness later in the day. This is how professional athletes are able to work out every day. While an ice cold shower isn't necessary, you should take a shower that's noticeably cooler than the temperature of your normal shower. This is the best way of reducing those aches that make you want to skip a day between workouts.
Engage in active recovery.
Even on days that you feel too sore to hit the gym, you should try to engage in some light to moderate activities. You don't have to do anything too stressful, but you should consider doing something active. Going for a walk, taking a leisurely bicycle ride, or playing a game of Frisbee are good recommendations for your "off day" activities. Additionally, light cardio workouts will help increase blood flow between strength training workouts. By engaging in cardio workouts on alternating days, you'll reduce muscle stiffness and improve overall mobility.
Get more sleep.
If you're working out regularly, falling asleep shouldn't be a problem, because your body is likely worn out from the use of all that energy. Make sure you allow enough time for a minimum of seven hours of sleep every night. This isn't just to ensure you get the rest you need. While you sleep, your body will be hard at work. In addition to restoring energy levels, it will use this period of downtime to rebuild and repair muscle. If you're getting less than seven hours of sleep, you're interrupting this process and inhibiting muscle growth.
Restoring your body after a workout is essential to your overall health, as well as helping you maximize your results. Implementing these practices will also help you maximize the effects of each workout and bring you closer to your fitness goals that much faster. By paying more attention to the way you wind down after a workout will help you perform better, boost your energy levels, and reduce muscle aches and pain.