Fortunately, you don’t need a degree in physiology to understand the basics of after-exercise recovery. By combining some basic knowledge and common sense, you can be sure that you are allowing your body to repair any damaged muscles and tissues as well as replenish your supply of energy. Consider the following steps:
Step 1: Cool Down
When you are done with your workout, don’t just abruptly stop what you are doing and then for the couch or showers. Instead, spend anywhere from five to 15 minutes doing some type of low-key, cool-down exercise. If you were jogging, spend the final part of your workout walking. If you were swimming laps, take five minutes to paddle back and forth across the pool slower than you were before. Doing this will help your heart rate gradually slow down and prevent your muscles from getting stiff.
Step 2: Stretch
Another important aspect of after-exercise recovery is stretching. Just like you (hopefully) stretched before your workout, you should do the same when you are done. Do so as soon as possible after you stop, and don’t over-flex any part of your body.
Step 3: Get Adequate Nutrition
What you consume post-exercise has a direct impact on how quickly and easily your muscles repair themselves. Livestrong reports that a balance of high-quality carbs and protein will stimulate your muscles to get busy repairing and growing. Also, be sure you are drinking enough water during and after your workouts. A hydrated body will recover much quicker than one that is thirsty for liquids.
Step 4: Rest
How much and how long you rest depends on what type of exercising you are doing. If you powerlift, Men’s Fitness recommends you give the individual muscle groups up to three days’ rest before working on them again. For most guys who work out with less strenuous forms of exercise, 24 hours of rest is usually enough to repair any muscle damage.
Bonus Steps: Hit the Hot Tub & Get a Massage
Massage reduces muscle stiffness and improves circulation. You can do it yourself with rollers, massage sticks and even a tennis ball, or you can treat yourself to a professional massage. If you have access to a hot tub or spa, consider soaking in it for 15 to 20 minutes prior to your massage. According to Hot Tub Works, sitting in the warm water will help draw out lactic acid while relaxing your muscles. This helps your massage be even more effective and relaxing, and it help get more oxygen to any damaged or sore tissues.