You just had a killer workout—first off, take this time to feel awesome. Not only does exercise boost your endorphins, making you feel happier post-workout, but it also keeps you healthy, where your organs are in tip-top-shape and you can feel confident in your skin.
What’s more, regular exercise, where you’re getting a mix of cardio and resistance training, will build muscle to support your metabolism, so you’ll be burning more calories throughout the day, explains celebrity trainer, based in Los Angeles, and instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp, Astrid Swan.
And, when you have more developed muscle, your risk of osteoporosis decreases, as a result of greater bone density and strength, Swan adds.
Yet, working out is only half the battle. It takes time and effort to recover following a sweat session, so your body can heal itself and muscles can repair. If not, you’ll notice more fatigue, muscle breakdown, and lack of effective results, she says.
And, what’s worse—you’ll up your chances of an overuse injury, which could leave you sidelined for a few weeks at time. Talk about a workout rut, right?
Here are Swan’s favorite ways to recover after working out. For maximum benefits, give yourself 20-60 minutes to really hone in on recovery.
Of course, you might spend more time in a bath than you would with a foam roller, but keeping to at least the bare minimum is super important in protecting your bones and muscles.
Remember, you only have one body, after all.
Using Ice/Heat Therapy
While preference depends on the individual, where some people will stick to either hot or cold temperatures, it’s usually best to alternative, 20 minutes off and on, if possible.
“Ice helps reduce inflammation and swelling, and it immediately numbs you,” says Swan. “We all see athletes sitting in ice baths all the time,” she adds. The ice can help prevent injury or overuse, so putting on a few ice packs with your favorite episode of Game of Thrones after dinner could help. Or, if you can tolerate the bath, hop on in.
Contrarily, “heat promotes blood flow and helps relax muscles,” says Swan. By loosening up muscles, you can break the tension and improve circulation to aid in recovery.
Getting Back That Fuel
It shouldn’t take much convincing to say, “Go eat something!” after a tough workout. But, you’d be surprised. Some people feel they’ll negate the calories burned by eating post-workout, while others just simply don’t have time or forget to eat.
Yet—this can prevent muscles from repairing, lead to fatigue, and break down muscles, says Swan.
“Eating within 30 minutes of your workout is the best thing for your muscle recovery and metabolism. Combining carb, protein and a little healthy fat like a protein shake with almond butter, spinach with eggs, or a veggie with avocado can do the trick,” she says.
And, don’t skimp on the complex carbs. “Your body needs carbs to replace glycogen and you need protein to help your body rebuild and repair muscles,” says Swan. Steer clear of a brioche loaf (no benefits there), but choose something with whole grains or fiber, instead.
Norma-what? Normatec is a device that can be found in select gyms that uses compressed air to massage your limbs and muscles. So, the bags of air will be snug on your legs, arms, feet, or hips, for instance.
“I have used it before and loved how I felt after. My legs felt more recovered from my intense workout and I highly recommend it for post recovery,” says Swan.
You’ll expect a “pre-inflate cycle,” as sacs mold to your body’s form. Then it’ll start compressing your feet, hands, upper quads, or whatever area you’re focusing on.
Similar kneading and stroking techniques found in massage, you’ll get an initial compress and pulsing, and then a release. It’ll work its way around your areas, so it hits all the spots. Try a session out, and see for yourself.
Doing An Active Recovery
Active recovery is a workout that is less intense than your regular workout, to help the body cool down and recover. Think: A light walk, easy spin, or hatha yoga.
“This helps with muscle stiffness and fatigue by getting the blood flowing,” says Swan.
She recommends groiner stretches to down dog, as well as knee pulls to lunges.
Here’s how to do them. For groiner to down dog, start in downdog position, hips up and heels flat, making the body into a triangle. Lower to a plank position and bring the foot up outside the same hand into a low lunge position. Lower the same elbow down and then press back up onto hands returning to down dog position. Alternate each side, and every time you should feel more opening in the lower back, hamstrings, calves, and hips.
For knee pulls to lunges, start standing and pull one knee into the chest with both hands, and extend hips forward. Drop that lifted knee into a lunge and twist towards that front leg. Repeat on the other side.
Taking A Soothing Epsom Salt Bath
Besides, who doesn’t love taking a relaxing bath following a workout? And, tossing in some Epsom salts can take that experience to a whole new level, benefiting both body and mind.
“Epsom salt baths can help with muscle recovery. In general, taking a hot bath helps soothe tired, achy muscles and Epsom salts help relax the muscles and take down the inflammation,” says Swan.
You can also take magnesium supplements or eat foods high in magnesium, as this key nutrient will also promote muscle repair and relaxation. A few options? Whole grains, avocado, nuts, seeds, bananas, and leafy greens.
Using A Foam Roller
Sure, you can book an appointment with a masseuse, and if you’re an active person, it’s a good idea to get regular massages, but don’t be skimpy when it comes to self-massage.
“I love foam rolling. In fact, I do it before and after my workouts,” says Swan.
Here’s why it’s so important—Foam rolling is self-massage (self-myofascial release) to ease muscle tightness and any trigger points. By applying pressure to specific points on your body, you are able to aid in the recovery of muscles and prevent overuse injuries, Swan explains.
And, a few key areas to give some love to? “I always do my IT band, hamstrings, quads, glutes and lower back,” says Swan.
How do you recover post workout? Share with us below!