With limited time in our busy schedules, often it’s hard enough to get a workout in, let alone take care of all the other things on our schedules. Which means we might skip stretching, not hydrate or refuel well enough, or even scrap the shower in order to meet up with friends. What you do immediately after your workout is just as important as the workout itself. So take care of your post-workout routine by adding these five steps. With the right planning, you’ll be able to squeeze in these all-important steps to maintaining a healthy fitness routine.
After a workout, your muscles are warm and primed for a good stretch. This is the best time for some light stretches. Our major muscles groups, like the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves certainly need attention. Don’t forget your hips and the often-tight iliotibial (IT) band. And the upper body needs attention too! We store tension and soreness in a wide variety of places, so use this time after a workout to loosen up tight muscles. Often we skip this super important part of our workout because we’re pressed for time, but stretching is critical. It will help prevent injury and reduce soreness, as well as increase flexibility in your muscles and joints.
2. Wash Sweaty Clothes
If you can, immediately wash your sweaty workout clothes. You can also use some simple products, like baking soda added to the wash cycle or a vinegar rinse prior to washing as tools to help keep lingering odors caused by prolonged exposure to sweat at bay.
To air dry is a great first step in taking care of our workout clothes, especially if we don’t have time to run a load in the wash. This will help prevent set-in odors and keep your workout clothes in good condition. Pull out a drying rack or some hangers and above all, do not leave your clothes in a sweaty pile in a hamper or on the floor!
3. Take a Shower
Showering post workout is a must, even if you’ve only sweat just a little bit. Staying in sweaty clothes can lead to all kinds of skin issues, with lingering fungus and bacteria left on our skin just to name two skin concerns. Showering post-workout also means you’ve taken off your sweaty clothes, not lingered in them for hours after. There are health benefits to getting out of your sweaty workout clothes, notably keeping your immune system strong by not continuing to expose yourself to bacteria and fungus. Warm water and soap will keep your skin free from unwanted ailments associated with sweat and (usually) form-fitting workout wear (underwear, bras, and yoga pants).
When you’re pressed for time, grab a cleansing wipe or a damp towel to help wipe some of the sweat from your body. This will help reduce sweat-induced odor and keep your skin clean. A package of baby wipes, for example, in your gym bag is a great short-cut to a full shower.
Inside of 30 minutes post-workout, you need to refuel your body with some food and be sure to include some protein. Our muscles need protein to help repair and rebuild, two Rs needed to help build stronger muscles. You post-workout snack will also help sustain that energy burst that often comes after a workout when the endorphins have kicked in and we’re feeling invigorated. Keep that energy up by putting good food into your body after a workout. We know it’s easy to think of this post-workout snack as a reward, but skip the donut or burger and go for healthier options like yogurt, avocado toast, or a hard-boiled egg.
This is important before, during, and after your workout. Regardless of the workout, if you were lifting weights or taking a yoga class, hydrating is a must in order to keep our bodies strong. A good rule of thumb: if you’re already feeling thirsty, then you’re already dehydrated.
If you have trouble remembering to stay hydrated, keep a water bottle in your gym bag, car, and at your desk at work. Getting up to refill that bottle at work is a great way to get up and stretch your legs, as sitting for too long will increase muscle soreness after a workout. Just as our muscles need fuel, they also need water, so keep yourself well hydrated. Try tossing some lemon slices, raspberries, or even mint into your water bottle to help keep your taste buds interested.