Advance with MUSC Health

Post-Workout Considerations

Woman stretching outdoors.

By Aaron Galpert, MS, ATC

Timewise we are always pressed to get a workout in. Much more important is considering what you need to do post workout. Once you begin to finish your workout you are already mentally running through the list of things that you need to do as soon as you are done and at the bottom of the list is the cool down things that should be considered. Cooling down after is like flossing or saving for retirement. They're those things you know you should do, but the consequences of not doing them feel too far away to matter.

Tightness and imbalances can also come not having a proper post-workout routine. Just like a warm-up eases your body into what it's about to do, a cool down will return it to equilibrium, aiding with circulation, inflammation and flushing lactic acid from your muscles. So even though you may be short on time and feeling fine, immediately post workout, while your muscles are still warm, is the time for holding long, static stretches.

However, fitness does not end when you are finished with your workout routine. There still are a few considerations that you need to be aware of post workout to optimize good health.

1. Cool down. Do not stop exercising too quickly. This could lead to light headiness or even dizziness. When you exercise your body temperature rises and your blood vessels widen. This is your body's attempt to maintain temperature. To return to baseline you need to allow your blood vessels to return to their pre-exercise state. Walking normally is a good way to start the cool down process.

2. Stretch. After workout, this is a good time to stretch those used muscles. The muscles at this point are more elastic and pliable. Stretching will help decrease soreness and accelerate your recovery process. As your muscles cool, they begin to contract. Take advantage of the elastic muscles to also help relax tension and increase you range of motion.

3. Replenish fluids. Water is your best friend at this point. When you exercise, your body loses water. Unless you have had an intense or lengthy workout water will do. The fluid replacement will help to increase muscle flexibility and strength and decrease muscle soreness. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should drink 2-3 cups of water for every pound of weight you lost during workout.

4. Take a cool shower. An ice bath isn't necessary but adjust the shower temperature a little lower than a normal shower to help reduce muscle inflammation and possible soreness of soreness the nest day. A cool shower can also increase the healing process.

5. Change clothes. It is important to remove wet clothing post workout. Even if you are unable to completely change attire, at least remove the wet items. Soggy workout clothes can trap moisture promoting the growth of yeast, fungus, bacteria and germs. This could potentially lead to breakouts and skin infections.

6. Eat well. You just worked hard so don't spoil it by consuming junk food or even overeating. You will regain all the calories you just burned and maybe even more. Eat right to help reduce muscle soreness, perform better for your next workout. Post workout snacks can include, non-fat or low fat yogurt or granola, whole grain waffles with almond butter or even some yogurt. Non-fat or low-fat chocolate milk with whole grain salted pretzels. Chocolate milk is the perfect recovery tool. It offers protein and sugars while the pretzels regain sodium you have sweated out. Tuna on whole wheat which is a good carb and protein replacement. Giving your body the necessary and proper fuel as well as fluids will help you to replenish and rebuild muscle tissue and optimize recovery.

7. Recover. Give your muscles time to recover so they can heal, repair and rebuild. Mix up workouts so differ muscle groups are utilized. Rest is another important component to getting the most out of your work out. If you're a beginner, you may need more time in between workouts for your muscles to build back and for connective tissue to recover. If something feels injured, give it proper rest time and if persistent consider seeing a Sports Medicine Specialist.