“No pain, no gain” is the rallying cry of gym goers everywhere but should you really push yourself until your muscles give up on you for days? While it’s normal to experience some soreness, constantly being in pain from pushing yourself too hard isn’t a sign that you’re making progress. In fact, this could be hindering you from getting those coveted gains.
Read on to find out ways to recover from a workout so that you can make the most out of your workout—long after you’ve left the gym.
Streeetch it out. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.”
While there are no conclusive studies that show that stretching can minimize injury, dancers and athletes tend to be more flexible, possibly from repeated activation of muscles and joints. Flexibility can help you perform exercises more efficiently, thereby maximizing your workout. For example, when you loosen your leg and ankle muscles, you may be able to dip lower on your squats. As muscles are best stretched when warm, incorporate stretching at the end of your regular workout routine.
Eat up! Don’t skip your post-workout meal. (Read more about the importance of food before and after a workout here.) Your body needs the proper nutrition right after a workout to help muscles repair themselves and replenish depleted glycogen supplies. No time for a meal? You can chug down a protein shake as protein is essential for muscle recovery, then eat a balanced meal within two hours after your workout. (Check out Healthy Options for some workout recovery supplements.)
Protein needs vary from person to person depending on factors like lifestyle (athletes tend to need more protein than non-athletes). Figure out how much protein you need by reading this.
Hydrate. Dehydration can negatively affect your recovery process so you need to replenish the water you lost from sweating it out, on top of getting the recommended daily dose.
Take a shower. Maybe you can’t be like professional athletes who immerse themselves in an ice bath after a big game. But you can settle for the next best thing: a cold shower, especially if you worked out in a hot environment.
Get a massage. It’s easy to book a home-service massage but if you don’t have the budget for it, you can trade massages with your partner. Or you can give yourself a massage with a few handy tools. You can perform self-myofascial release (SMR) using a foam roller, massage stick, baseball, or lacrosse ball. Run over your different muscle groups using your chosen tool then apply pressure on particularly ache-y spots until the pain subsides. According to research published in the Journal of Athletic Training, MSR can reduce post-workout soreness, aid in recovery, and improve exercise performance.
Get enough sleep. We all know the importance of getting enough sleep and yet many people still don’t heed the advice. Another reason to get some shut-eye: Sleep helps your body restore itself as well as gives you energy to consistently do your workouts. When you’re sleep-deprived, you may be crankier and not exactly in the best mood to go to the gym. Stick to a regular sleep routine. Put a time cap on your gadget use if you must so you can sleep on schedule.
Make time for rest. One of the best ways to recover from a workout? Rest! You might think intense daily workouts can get you to your goals faster but this might be detrimental to what you’re trying to achieve. Rest is a big part of working out because it gives your body time to recuperate and come back stronger. If you don’t give yourself sufficient time to recover, you won’t be able to do your workouts properly and you may be putting yourself at risk for injury.
Schedule at least one active rest day per week, which can promote circulation and help relieve soreness. Active rest means doing some form of light exercise like walking, yoga, or a leisurely bike ride. Some experts recommend adding an additional day of full rest to your weekly schedule. Just listen to your body to find out what it needs.