Workout Recovery 101: What To Do Post-Workout

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woman stretching her hamstrings after a workout for post-workout recovery

When it comes to your exercise routine, the time and effort you spend sweating tends to take all the glory, but it shouldn’t.

Sometimes, you need to look past the sweat session and give some credit to your workout recovery. 

What you do after a workout is an important part of seeing results. Things like proper nutrition, quality sleep, and healthy post-workout rituals are all essential pieces of the puzzle. 

If you’re wondering what to do after a workout, we’ve got you covered. Here are seven things you should always check off your workout recovery list. 

1. Hydrate

First things first, fill up your water bottle! All of that sweat that’s soaked through your workout gear is water loss that you need to replace. 

Hydrating after a workout improves muscle flexibility, builds strength, and prevents post-workout soreness. If you don’t get enough water after a workout, you also risk delaying your workout recovery. 

2. Stretch It Out

Taking the time to stretch and cool down after your workout brings your body back to its resting state and allows your heart rate to gradually return to normal.

Stretching after a workout is super helpful for muscle repair, joint mobility, and range of motion.  

post workout

Proper stretching is just as important as the workout itself, and it’s best to stretch when your muscles are warm. You don’t want to go straight from your workout to a seated position like your car or the couch. 

3. Refuel With Muscle Recovery Foods

You need to refuel after your workout. Period. 

Pick a protein-rich meal as your workout recovery go-to. Eating protein post-workout is essential for speedy muscle recovery.  

You’ll also want to load up on magnesium because it’s lost when we sweat. Think dark leafy greens (spinach or kale), milk, nuts (almonds or cashews), salmon, and avocado. 

Here’s a great list of foods that help with workout recovery and muscle repair. 

4. Massage Your Muscles 

Here’s a reason to celebrate: science says you need a massage after your workout. Not only is a massage helpful for muscle repair, a recent study a massage after an intense workout can help build muscle strength. 

You also don’t need to go see a pro to reap the benefits. You can buy a foam roller and try some moves at home. You can even use a tennis ball if you have one lying around. 

Better yet, try a percussion massager. Hyperice has our vote for the best handheld massage gun for relieving muscle pain. 

5. Get Enough Zzz’s 

All together now: Sleep. Is. Essential. For. Your. Fitness. 

Sleep is when your body recovers and rebuilds muscles. Sleep is also when you conserve the energy you need for your next workout. More importantly, when you’re not getting enough sleep your body’s stress levels can spike, which causes you to hold onto unwanted fat and creates other health issues. 

6. Plan An Active Rest Day

You don’t want to go full speed every day of the week. Your body needs time to rest so it can repair itself fully. If you don’t give your body enough time to rest and adapt to the physical demands of your workouts, you’re not giving yourself enough time to catch up and get stronger. 

post workout

An active rest day is all about prioritizing your workout recovery without being completely sedentary. So instead of vegging out on the couch all day and binge watching Netflix, you’re adding some movement to your rest day. 

Doing yoga, steady-state jump rope or walking, hiking, and light resistance training are all great options for an active rest day. 

Why Do You Need Workout Recovery?

You might be wondering, “should I workout every day?”

Well, here’s the rundown:

Every time you workout, you’re creating ‘micro-tears’ in your muscles and when those tears repair themselves, you get stronger.

When you don’t give yourself enough workout recovery time to repair those muscle tears, you can actually end up doing more harm than good. For example, you might hit a plateau or experience the negative effects of overtraining, like increased cortisol levels and stress, injuries, fatigue, and muscle breakdown. 

You essentially give yourself a fitness hangover. 

How Long Does Your Body Need To Rest Between Workouts?

A good rule of thumb is to schedule at least one full rest day a week. 

With that said, it really does depend on a number of things. Age, nutrition, fitness level, sleep, stress, workout intensity and type, all factor into deciding on the amount of workout recovery you need. 

If you’re weight training, it’s best to give yourself two full days of rest in between muscle groups. So, if you train for two consecutive days, focus on two different muscle areas; back and biceps on Monday and core strength on Tuesday, for example. 

If you’re jumping rope or doing HIIT cardio, you might find you need more rest between workouts, especially if you’re a beginner. It’s a good habit to alternate between high-intensity and low-intensity workouts to give your body the time it needs restore its energy. 

Most importantly, always check in with how your body feels. If you’re feeling tired, irritable, stressed, or your workouts are feeling unusually difficult, those are all rest flags. 

If you pay close attention, your body will tell you when you need to slow down.  

Should You Workout When Sore? 

When you find yourself debating whether you’re too sore for your workout ask yourself these questions: 

  1. Is anything swollen? 
  2. Are any of my joints lacking full range of motion?
  3. Are certain muscles compensating for others?
  4. Am I feeling mental/emotional stress about this workout? 

If you answer yes to any of these questions, take a break. 

Can You Speed Up Workout Recovery? 

Yes, you can help speed along the workout recovery process by making habits out of the recovery tactics in the list above. 

Let’s recap: 

  1. Stay hydrated
  2. Stretch your body
  3. Refuel with good nutrition
  4. Massage your muscles
  5. Prioritize sleep
  6. Work in active rest days 

Bonus: Jump Rope Recovery Workout

Here’s a super simple, beginner jump rope workout that you can use on your active rest day. 

The moves:

  • 30 seconds of basic jump
  • 30 seconds of rest 

recovery workout

Remember to maintain a steady-state throughout the workout. 

You can follow along in the video below for a warm up and cool down.

And there you have it – the basics of workout recovery. 

Have questions? Ask in the comments section below or tell us your favorite workout recovery routine. We’d love to know all of your post-workout tips to stay fresh and get the most out of your workouts!

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