There’s nothing like the feeling of completing an intense, challenging workout. You know, the one that makes your muscles shake and has you feeling like you gave it your absolute all. This is both a fulfilling accomplishment and a reassuring sign that you’re using your gym time to the biggest advantage possible. But, the real way to get the most out of any lifting session is to know how to recover after a tough workout. Here are a few things to keep in mind to have your muscles feeling good as new from one workout to the next.
Make Time to Cool Down
Recovery starts the moment your last burnout or drop set is complete. Once you finish the main part of your workout, you can’t just walk away. You have to stay on the gym floor a few extra minutes and do something to cool down.
Some people like to cool down with cardio. They’ll jump on a bike for a few minutes or walk at a slow pace to get their heart rate back down to normal. Others will use a roller to target a sore area or simply do a bit of ab work to keep the body moving without pushing it to its limits anymore.
Stretch, Stretch, Stretch
While there’s benefits in knocking out a few sets of crunches or doing planks to wrap up a workout, the best thing to do is stretch. Sit down and do slow, mindful movements to give your muscles room to breathe.
Your stretches will vary based on which muscle group you just worked that day. But, making time to stretch has to be consistent. This is the most basic way to recover after a tough workout, yet it’s also something many people underestimate the value of. Commit to stretching before and after every single workout for a week and discover how much better and stronger your whole body feels.
Use the Locker Room Spa Area
Most gyms have room on the main floor for guests to stretch. But, there are also some that have added recovery tools in the locker room. If your gym’s dressing area has a spa or a sauna, use it!
These things are typically included in a standard membership and they truly take your recovery process to the next level. There are many ways that a hot tub can soothe your muscles and your mind, and plenty of infrared sauna benefits to take advantage of, too.
Some key reasons to use the spa amenities include:
- the muscle stimulation supports healthy blood flow without strain
- the heat helps you release toxins
- spa jets offer a bit of a massage while the hot tub runs
Making this a regular part of your routine also has the potential to increase the amount of weight you lose, to make your skin look better, and to ease any stress going on in your life. You don’t have to do this every single day, but it’s a good recovery habit to get into once or twice a week.
Eat a Recovery Meal
Here’s something that you should absolutely do after every workout as soon as possible: eat! This doesn’t mean make a McDonald’s run or treat yourself to ice cream, though. You need to be mindful of what kind of things you’re feeding your muscles to refuel.
The key macro to focus on in a post-workout meal is protein. Try to pack a protein shake in your bag every time you go to the gym or make it a point to head straight home and eat a full meal of a lean protein and a bit of carbs and fats. Note that your meal necessities will depend on the time of day it is and your overall fitness goals, too. For the ultimate recovery, look into how supplements like glutamine and creatine can help the muscles feel better, or try to eat natural foods that are high in water content and potassium.
The best way to look at working out is something that’s part of your lifestyle, not just an hour or so out of your day. When you approach it like this, recovery, proper dieting, and even rest become just as important as the efforts you make during each rep. It’s all connected. To help you get a better understanding of the relationship between recovery and weightlifting or eating and workouts, click here.