The amount of times I’ve seen people finish their workout and head straight to the gym locker room is countless. They allocate time to warm up yet completely neglect the cool down.
Granted, warming up prior to exercising helps with injury prevention. But so does the cool down. For me, the cool down is as equally important as the warm up. And if you want to keep your muscles fresh for your next workout, then a post-workout recovery routine is essential.
Whether you are one who skips the cool down or simply does not know of ways to recover after exercise, I figured to share with you my recovery timeline to encourage you to start emphasizing more on recovery.
Not only does this routine optimally recover my muscles and body, but it also allows myself to train harder the next day. That’s the whole point of recovery…to keep exercising and never stop the grind!
The methods of recovery within my routine have been consistently shown in the literature to be an effective way to repair damaged muscle fibers and allow for optimal muscle growth.
So, in a nutshell, I’m providing you with my recovery routine (in order) which I think will compliment your exercise regimen very well.
1) Foam Rolling
God bless whoever discovered this piece of equipment! Foam rolling helps release muscle knots or ‘adhesions’ which will essentially relax your muscles rather than keeping them contracted or ‘tight’ all the time. It’s pretty much like getting a massage. If you’re gym does not have a foam roller, I highly suggest you invest in one. It’s worth it.
I sweat like crazy when I exercise – I guess it’s just the way my body works. I can especially taste the salt, so I know I’m losing a lot of electrolytes. To keep my body in check, I always rehydrate after exercising. Water is my main source of fluid, but sometimes I add an electrolyte powder or tablet to replenish the lost electrolytes. Regardless of how much you sweat, it’s extremely important to drink fluids after exercise to avoid muscle dehydration and cramping.
Definitely opt for a protein shake after exercise, especially if weight-lifting is your primary form of exercise. Protein will help repair any damaged muscle fiber tears that occur during exercise and increase muscle growth. Including Branched Chain Amino Acids after exercise, especially the amino acid Leucine, will further augment muscle recovery.
Whether you supplement with protein or not, plan to have a protein-rich meal as close to finishing your workout as possible. Add some carbohydrates as well to lessen the amount of muscle breakdown that may occur after exercise. This also helps replenish any carbohydrates that were used for energy during your workout and help you refuel for your next workout. Also, include fruits and/or vegetables in your meal to boost your immune system and help fight exercise-induced inflammation.
Sleep well! Your body and muscles recover most efficiently during periods of rest, especially while you’re asleep. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night and make sure they’re a good quality 8 hours. A lack of sleep quantity and quality can increase muscle stress while reducing muscle growth and repair. This is the last thing you want after a good quality workout!
I typically exercise after work, so dinner is usually the remaining meal I have left to eat, hence this particular routine. Whatever time of day you train, I highly recommend getting into the habit of incorporating this routine after you exercise. It doesn’t have to be in the same order…you may exercise in the morning or before lunch and have more meals to eat, which will actually enhance recovery even more.
Fact of the matter is, start making time for a cool down after exercise to help you optimally recover and keep exercising on a daily basis. Believe me, your muscles will thank you for this.