Regular exercise is linked to so many benefits, including more restful sleep, better energy, stronger bones, a healthier weight and even increased lifespan. Physical activity is so important that the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention makes it a cornerstone for healthy living, recommending adults get two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week and do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days. While these guidelines are important for overall health, you also need to think about what to do after a workout.
Exercise essentially puts your body through systematic physical stress. Whether you’re engaging in yoga, weight-training, running, cycling, swimming or another favorite activity, a good workout causes microscopic damage at a cellular level. This physical stress then triggers the body to repair and strengthen, ultimately improving your fitness. But if you’re not allowing your body the time it needs to repair and strengthen, you risk chronic or acute injury. At worse, your body won’t be rested enough to take on your next workout.
If you have any chance of keeping up with those recommended activity benchmarks or continuously improving your athletic performance, you’ll need to schedule rest days between your workouts. Here are five ways to help relieve sore muscles and support their ability to bounce back after a workout:
1. Foam roll
Take time to massage muscle groups with a stiff foam roller or other rolling device. This type of self-massage can deeply target specific spots to relieve tension, pain and tightness, which helps with overall recovery and flexibility.
Though common knowledge, this tip deserves repeating. If you feel thirsty, you’re already slightly dehydrated. Drink water or other fluids during exercise, if you can; and aggressively re-hydrate after working out. Water supports muscle tissue, cushions joints and also helps rid the body of toxins during the recovery process.
Pure herbal supplements can support effective recovery and promote sports performance. Look for a blend with well-researched ingredients including astaxanthin, a clinically studied phytonutrient from algae that supports athletic performance and healthy immune defenses. Ginger extract is also a good choice. Ginger acts as nature’s support for a healthy inflammation response. †
Protein consumed soon after a workout gives your body tools to rebuild. Replenishing carbohydrates is also essential, since they get stored as glycogen—your body’s workout fuel. You need both for proper recovery. A well-balanced, post-workout snack may look like yogurt and berries, a glass of chocolate milk or tuna on whole-grain bread. Make it easy and delicious!
Adequate sleep is a crucial part of training. Sleep lets your body focus on repair and hormone release and is even linked to better decision-making skills – which are helpful during competition. Adults should generally get seven or more hours of sleep each night.
Your fitness journey should be a rewarding process that helps you feel strong and empowered to take on more intensity, more workouts and more of whatever you want in life. Just remember to treat the recovery phase with as much commitment as you give your workouts – and you’ll stay fit for anything!