During your workout, your muscles break down. When you recover, they grow and repair—that’s when the change happens. This means that taking time to properly recover is just as important as the workout itself (the key word here is “properly”).
Unfortunately, to some, recovery often looks like this:
- Ravenously chow down any food in sight
- Settle into a comfy spot on the couch—for hours
Queue two more days of couch time to fully “rest” before your next workout and you’ve officially made not one, not two, but three recovery mistakes.
Find out what other mistakes you might be making and how to correct them so you can get the most out of every workout.
The first part of your recovery happens during the last 10 minutes of your workout. This cool down helps your body transition from working at maximum capacity to normal conditions, which is not just important for recovery, but for your own safety as well.
The American Heart Association states, “After physical activity, your heart is still beating faster than normal, your body temperature is higher and your blood vessels are dilated. This means if you stop too fast, you could pass out or feel sick. A cool-down after physical activity allows a gradual decrease at the end of the episode.”
To make room for your cool down when doing cardio, slow to a light jog during the final 5 to 10 minutes of your run. When strength training, focus on slow, gentle movements for the last few rounds of your workout.
2. Not eating the right foods
If you’re famished after a workout, you’re not alone. Some workouts can burn upwards of 1,000 calories, leaving your body screaming for more fuel. However, choosing the right post-workout meal can be challenging if you don’t know what to look for.
Luckily, there are just two important macronutrients to focus on: protein and carbohydrates, with a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein. This helps replenish your depleted glycogen stores and re-build muscle proteins. So, if you want to indulge post-workout, you can, you just have to do so intentionally. That means, choosing the foods that are high in protein and carbs but still feel like a splurge.
If you want pizza, make sure there’s chicken or some kind of protein on top. While it’s not the best healthy option, you’re getting both protein and carbs. Otherwise, dig into a small dish of whole grain pasta and shrimp or whole grain panini sandwich with turkey, cheese and veggies. Find what you love, make sure it accounts for carbs and protein, and enjoy.
3. Not Getting Enough Rest
Rest is a critical part of recovery. This is when you’re muscles are given the time they need to rebuild, grow and get stronger. However, we get antsy. Sometimes, we like the post-workout feeling, so we want to train more and give ourselves just one day off.
While elite athletes train this much, they also take ice baths and work with fitness professionals to keep their bodies healthy. Without these resources at your disposal, it’s important that you focus on making enough time for rest so that you don’t burnout and plateau.
Aim for at least two days off a week, with each consecutive workout focusing on a different area of the body. If you do upper body on Monday, do a core workout on Tuesday to give your shoulders, biceps, triceps, upper back and more a chance to rest.
4. Not Getting Enough Active Rest
Rest is important, yes. But sedentary rest isn’t always beneficial; active rest is the best way to help your body recover after a workout. This promotes muscle recovery by increasing blood flow and delivering important nutrients to the muscles that need it most. It also helps flush away lactic acid and other metabolic waste left behind from exercise that causes the typical post-workout soreness.
Rather than staying inactive and sedentary between workouts, make time for a walk, bike ride, yoga, hiking, stretching, or any other gentle movement or exercises.
5. Forgetting to Foam Roll
Foam rolling is the process of targeting your fascia, a layer of fibrous connective tissue that surrounds all muscles in the body. “Without proper mobility, fibers of the fascia become cross linked and they bind to muscles and nerves, inhibiting normal motion and causing pain,” according to Fleet Feet Hartford.
Foam rolling helps you avoid the cross linking that causes pain and stiffness, bringing normal blood flow back to the muscles and allowing tissues to repair themselves.
The bottom line is that recovery is critical; and if you forget these important pieces, you’ll likely feel sorer and see fewer results. Remember to cool down, eat the right food, and give your muscles the love they need to repair and grow. You’ll be feeling stronger than ever with your new recovery program, ultimately allowing you to gain more miles or beat your lifting personal record.