Today I want to talk about the importance of taking care of yourself between workouts. Rest and recuperation are really important!
The actual physical activity that makes up your exercise routine is just one part of the picture, no matter what goal you’re trying to reach with your body. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, gain a little muscle or strength, or to improve your range of movement, your results all depend on how well your body can recover from exercise. A lot of people sabotage their own potential results by failing to help their recuperation as best as possible. Let’s take a closer look at what makes a successful recovery between workout sessions.
Don’t push yourself too hard
This is a lesson worth teaching every time you get the opportunity and one that especially should be taught to those just getting into exercise or getting back to it after a long break. No pain, no gain may have been your old PE coach’s motto but we’ve learned a lot since then! You have to know when you’re pushing yourself too hard. Strain yourself too much and you dramatically increase the chances of giving yourself a real injury that keeps you off your feet for much longer, undoes any of the good work you’ve done, and could lead to chronic pain or other issues down the line. Know the signs that you’re pushing yourself too hard, such as acute pain, too high a heart rate, and throwing up after or during a workout.
The cool-down and the stretch
You shouldn’t stop moving as soon as you’re done with the last set of the workout. Just as warming up ensures your body gets used to motion so it can exercise, cooling-down helps your muscles and joints settle after intense movement as well. A lighter exercise to help you bring yourself back down should be followed by stretching. Stretching helps you get a little more range of movement back after repetitive motions and helps fight inflammation. Fail to do either of these and you are again more likely to injure yourself. Inflammation or muscle aches can also make it generally harder to move around or relax after a workout.
Find some release
Exercise causes muscles to tense to degrees that they’re not normally used to. Sometimes, this tension remains, and muscles can get caught in awkward positions causing a lot of pain. Cooling-down and stretching can help but if you’re lifting to your very limit or taking part in particularly intense exercises, you need to give your muscles a little more help to relax. Myofascial release is the term used to describe the relaxing of this tension and working out the kinks and stiffness after a workout physically can help you achieve it. One of the best tools to do that is giving yourself a massage with a foam roller.
Keep the body stocked
Fueling your workouts is essential, as you should already know. Most people are aware of the need for protein before a workout to help your body start digesting the nutrients it needs to repair itself after the stresses you induce. But a post workout protein rich snack is just as important. Potassium and omega-3 fatty acids are just as essential in the body’s repair process, so make sure that you’re getting enough of them. If you’re on a calorie-controlled diet, then vitamin supplements can be a good way to ensure you’re getting the nutrition you need without knocking your macros out of whack. Never cut your calories down too low if you’re exercising intensely, however. You’re much less likely to have the energy reserves or protein stores to avoid a workout injury.
Exercise is great for relieving stress and giving you an endorphin rush that can help you both fight pain as well as improving your general mood. However, after you’ve stretched, massaged, and worked the stiffness out of your body, some tension can remain. Energy levels can remain high, meaning that your body doesn’t get out of high-gear as well as it should. When that happens, you should look at methods of helping yourself relax after a workout. A bath is good for both mental and physical release. Breathing exercises and meditation can improve blood flow and oxygen distribution around the body as well as helping you get back to a more peaceful, calmer mood.
Good sleep is essential
One of the reasons you absolutely need time to relax is because you have to be able to sleep at night. Working out close to bedtime is rarely advisable. Your body is going to feel more tense and more alert for hours after an exercise which can interrupt sleep. What’s more, you need to make sure you have a bed that can support your muscles when they’re achy and sore. Foam mattresses might be recommended especially for those who sleep on their back. Sleep is an essential part of the recovery process and if you find yourself having difficulty sleeping, you need to get to the bottom of it. Otherwise, you will feel more sore for longer and be more prone to workout injuries.
Balance it with gentler exercise
Bed rest shouldn’t be taken to an extreme, however. Even if you have injured yourself, staying in bed all day might have been recommended in the past but now we are finding out that it can actually exacerbate injuries and cause recovery to take even longer. This is especially true of back pain. While you’re recovering from exercise or injury, try to find ways to keep active in a safe manner. Active recovery with Gentle exercises like walking, light stretching, or swimming can help your body recover more quickly. If you start to feel any pain or discomfort during these lighter exercises, take a break. This isn’t the time to push yourself, you’re just trying to move your body. Remember, listen to your doctors and your body. Spenser loves my active recovery days!
The better your body recovers from exercise, the more results you see from your work, the less time you have to spend sidelining yourself, and the less pain you have to deal with. Ensure that you’re giving yourself both the time and the resources you need for a prompt and full recovery.
Do you put the effort into recuperating from your workouts? I know I need to do better about cooling down. I’ve gotten a lot better lately about warming up and foam rolling before my workouts but after… not so much. Spenser and I definitely take my active recovery days and I’ve been loving yoga lately!
This is a collaborative post and may contain affiliate links. All opinions are, as always, my own. While I am an ACE Certified Health Coach I am not a medical professional and the information provided in this post is not to be considered medical advice.