Whether you're new to fitness, or you're going a little harder than usual (two-a-days, anyone?), it's essential to take care of your body after each and every workout. Doing so will help prevent injury, pain, and discomfort. Make sure you're always following these steps and giving your body the TLC it needs so it can perform at its best.
- Cool Down. A universal tip you'll hear from trainers, in and out of the gym: don't skip the cooldown. It's essential for your body to go back to its resting state, break down excess cortisol and lactic acid, and leave you feeling good, both physically and mentally.
- Foam Roll. Right after your workout, and when you're home and feeling sore, make sure you use a foam roller, tennis ball, or any kind of massage device. I use a hollow foam roller, in addition to a flexible massage band. Need some help? Try these active rest-day foam-rolling tips.
- Stretch. This one might be obvious, but it's so important to stretch in between workouts, especially on your rest days. Try these essential post-workout stretches, or these supereasy stretches you can do in bed!
- Ice It. If you have an injury, or an area of your body that's especially sore, the general rule of thumb is 20 minutes on (with ice), 20 minutes off. If you've done an intense training event, maybe stacked a couple workouts into the same day, or just ran a half or full marathon, an ice bath may be in order.
- Sweat It Out. To get rid of toxins and lactic acid build up, some trainers recommend hitting up a sauna or steam room. See if your gym or wellness center has something like this on offer, or take a nice hot shower.
- Drink Up! You need to be drinking lots and lots of water to get your body and your muscles back to normal. Hydration is key! After especially grueling training sessions, replenish lost electrolytes with electrolyte-enhanced waters, sports drinks, or coconut water.
- Reduce Swelling. You can take ibuprofen or Advil for pain and swelling, or opt for a homeopathic treatment like arnica cream or pellets.
- Replace Protein. After a workout, your body needs to replace branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). Opt for a protein-packed snack or a protein shake with your favorite powder. Not a fan of protein powder? Try this protein strawberry smoothie. And while the natural sources with the highest BCAA content are all animal based (chicken, lean beef or steak, canned tuna, and salmon), roasted peanuts also have a ton, making for a great recovery food.
- Get Magnesium. It helps with cramping, in addition to general stress (and you might feel a little stressed when you're sore!). Try eating a banana, sorrel leaves or spinach, potato skins, edamame, or a piece of fish.
If you're especially sore or fatigued, remember that it's equally important to take time to rest between workouts, and give your body proper time to recover.