Whether you’re a hardcore body builder or a once in a while exerciser, it’s important to help your body not only prepare for the workouts but also recover from them.
Did you know, for example, not taking the time to cool down after a strenuous workout can potentially lead to fitness injuries, heart damage, and even fainting? Have you ever felt dizzy after a workout or a hike up a mountain or even climbing a steep set of stairs? This is because intense exercise causes the heart rate to speed up while simultaneously expanding blood vessels in the legs; by not cooling down properly, the heart becomes stressed as the body’s blood pressure drops too quickly, leading to blood literally pooling in the legs and feet. Dizziness, lightheadedness, and other body-shock, warning signs then set in. By simply taking a few moments to walk off the workout, you’ll allow your body to slowly cool down and gently recover from the over exertion, leading to feeling greatly accomplished rather than anguished.
Have you ever spent the better portion of a day cleaning your home to then “celebrate” your awesome accomplishment by paying for it physically the next twenty-four hours, super stiff and sore?
The key to avoiding those aches and pains and unnecessary strains on your body is to stretch out, before and after pushing that vacuum and mop so vigorously from room to room. Whether you’re taking the time to ride bicycles with your children, play a friendly game of Frisbee in the park with your dog, or participate in any other type of seemingly non-taxing activity, the simple fact is, your body needs your help to warm up and cool down — stretching is a big part of the process:
- Warming up muscles pre- workout raises your body temperature, increasing the flow of oxygen and blood throughout, keeping soft tissues from facing unnecessary fatigue and abuse.
- Stretching maximizes the workout and minimizes injuries by reducing muscle tension; increasing muscle coordination, range of motion, energy level, and flexibility; and improving blood circulation.
- An intense workout requires a preliminary, light, cardiovascular exercise focused on the specific muscle group that will be exercised. For example, 5 to 10 minutes of jogging on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike helps to prepare the legs for an intense workout thereafter.
- Post-workout, stretch with a foam roller to help muscles with increased blood circulation, minimized spasms, and faster recovery (best to receive initial guidance from an instructor or coach).
Whether it be to lose weight, gain muscle mass, or get up and go rather than be sedentary, your mental state of being is very important throughout the process for successful results, especially as you prepare. When you make the choice to exercise, do so with an enthusiastic “can do” attitude, anticipating the positive results and embracing every step of the way. Your desire to feel good and take care of yourself will directly affect the effect of the exercise — and it will help to prevent injuries as you take on each new challenge with a gusto!
Plenty of rest is required both before and after physical activity, to prepare the mental and physical self for taking on each hurdle and to allow the most impactful restoration and healing upon completion of the exercises. Lack of rest can readily lead to sprains, breaks, and other harm caused by ill preparation.
One of the most important responsibilities you have is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, with water, water, and more water, because 50% to 75% of your physical mass is exactly that – water.
To function properly, all body parts are utilizing water morning, noon, and night; that’s why drinking water as your main beverage is so important each and every day – to replenish what has been put to good use. When exercising, your body requires even more water per excessive evaporation through perspiration; drinking extra water to make up for the water depletion is imperative to get and stay healthy. More specifics about water and working out:
- Exercising helps to rid the body of harmful toxins; and water helps to flush them out – so they can’t just hang out in your body!
- Sufficient water intake allows the body to prepare for movement, withstand exercise, and recover as needed per, e.g. carrying nutrients to your cells for body building and healing.
- Normal hydration requires drinking approximately half your body weight in ounces each day, e.g. 75 ounces of water if you weigh 150 pounds. When exercising, drink an extra glass or two of water; more if working out for more than an hour.
- Note: Perspiration leads to depletion of sodium (electrolytes) and carbohydrates for glycogen (energy). If working out intensely, consider drinking coconut water and/or sports drinks in addition to water, to help replenish the losses.
In addition to liquid nourishment, eating the right foods before working out will increase the benefits of the exercise. Essentially, nutrients are needed for energy and strength; carbohydrates and fat help energize while proteins aid in muscle recovery.
- Eat a healthy, balanced meal of proteins and carbohydrates 2 to 3 hours before an intense workout, for proper digestion and preparation of the body to function at its best capacity.
- Note: Consume smaller amounts when eating closer to the time of activity, to avoid stomach discomfort and proper digestion.
A few more guidelines for best post-workout recovery:
- Refuel the body with protein to promote fat loss versus muscle loss.
- Eat simple carbohydrates like fruit, vegetables, dairy, bread, pasta, rice, whole grains, and beans to re-energize and repair and build muscles.
- Important: Carbohydrates are converted into glucose, or blood sugar, for energy. Since the human body can only store a limited amount, carbohydrates are to be eaten based on how much exercise takes place each day, to avoid retaining excess glucose.
- 1:4 ratio of protein to carbohydrates is recommended for most beneficial post-workout meal.
- Eat within 15-30 minutes following a workout to best utilize the nutrients for healing, recovery, and prevention of muscle fatigue and injury.
- Bathe as soon as possible to prevent rashes, skin irritations, and infections caused by potential bacteria buildup.
- Get plenty of sleep, including the key hours of body restoration, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Our bodies crave movement to perform at maximum capacity. Take the steps to prepare properly and heal properly, to restore and rejuvenate, to feel healthy and to be happy. And remember: Exercise with a smile!