If you run, lift weights, do crossfit, or take a spin class on a regular basis, or do any other sport or exercise that puts strain on your muscles, it’s important to follow up with a cool-down routine after your workout in order to prevent injuries.
When we exercise our muscles release lactic acid, which when left to pool and harden can cause muscle soreness and stiff joints. We also sweat, which leads to dehydration if you aren’t replenishing. A good cool-down routine can help you recover more quickly, without feeling your muscles and joints tighten and slow you down the next time you work out.
Following are some tips to keep in mind for your post workout routine:
Gentle stretching for at least 10 minutes can help the lactic acid disperse and alleviate some of the pain and stiffness after your workout. Stretching also allows the muscles to relax and lengthen, which helps your muscles repair damage and rebuild tissue. A foam roller is also a good option to help relieve those tight spots that are hard to stretch.
Space out your workout days.
While it might seem like a good idea to be consistent and work out 6-7 days per week, if you do a high-intensity workout such as running, this can cause more harm than good for your body over time. Try spacing your workout so that you run 3-4 days per week (not all together), and break up the days in between runs with a different low-impact activity, such as yoga, a light swim, or a walk.
Rehydrate with electrolytes.
It’s easy to get dehydrated when you work out, which is why it’s important to drink plenty of fluids before you feel thirsty. (Thirst is a sign that you’re already dehydrated.) If possible, add a packet of electrolytes to your water to help replenish magnesium and sodium levels that you’ve sweated out.
Take a warm bath with Epsom salts.
This is a great way to relax tense and sore muscles and to replenish much-needed minerals after a workout. Magnesium is an important mineral that the body uses daily, and when absorbed through your skin, can help relieve soreness an improve circulation. If your muscles are inflamed after a tough workout, try icing them first to bring down the inflammation, then take a bath.
Eat some protein.
Your muscles need to rebuild, especially after a tough workout, which is why it’s important to give them a little help. Protein enhances the body's insulin sensitivity, making it easier to move sugar from the bloodstream into tissues like muscles. Be sure to drink a protein smoothie, eat some egg whites, or even a slice of peanut butter toast to get your protein fix, preferably within 30 minutes after working out.