Why a focus on post-workout recovery is just as important as your workout

Why a focus on post-workout recovery is just as important as your workout

Exercise is integral to your daily life as it increases your heart rate and benefits your mental health.

While the workout is critical, you should also consider what you do when it’s complete. What is your post-exercise routine? The importance of post-workout recovery is hard to overstate, considering its place in your physical fitness.

Your routine may primarily focus on exercise, but your body needs care and rest afterwards to ensure you reap the benefits of physical activity.

Here are five reasons that emphasise the importance of post-workout recovery.

1. Building muscles

Strength-training workouts cause microtears in your muscles. You’ll likely feel sore after a hard training session, which means your body is building muscle.

The recovery time will depend on your response to the workout and intensity. Experts say you may only need 24 hours for recuperation after light exercise, whereas an intense session could require up to three days.

Your body does an excellent job of repairing your muscles after your workout and even while you sleep. A 2021 study found nuclei locate your injury site within five hours and can nearly complete the recovery within 24 hours.

2. Preventing future injuries

When you have a great workout, you may feel tempted to build on your success and do another session the next day.

Achieving your fitness goals in the gym is wonderful, but rest days are critical for your health. If you train the same muscle group on consecutive days, you risk overworking it and causing injuries.

Strains are a common injury in fitness, stemming from extensive mechanical stress in your muscle fibers. This mishap can occur in the gym, at work or doing work around the house, so being mindful of your recovery is essential.

Give yourself rest days, and don’t overwork your muscles if you feel soreness or pain.

3. Regaining energy

Weightlifting, swimming and running all burn energy. Feeling tired after a workout is typical because your body needs time to relax.

Transitioning from an intense session into another activity will be easier if you replenish your energy levels in a post-workout recovery. You need carbohydrates, protein, fats, and other nutrients to ensure your body regains its strength optimally.

4. Promoting flexibility and better ageing

The importance of post-workout recovery starts when you finish your exercise and it lasts for the rest of your day.

After your workout, your rest period should include stretches to cool down your muscles and keep your body limber. Range of motion is critical regardless of your age and stretching is excellent for promoting flexibility.

Experts say tight and weakened muscles put you at risk for joint pain, damage and strain. You need your muscles to stay strong and healthy as you age, so stretch after your workouts and even when you don’t exercise.

5. Avoiding burnout

While post-workout recovery focuses on your body, there’s room for your mental health to gain from rest.

Many people deem exercise necessary to their daily routine as they try to accomplish fitness goals. The Centers for Disease Control recommends at least 150 minutes of weekly physical activity to stay healthy, but be mindful of how your workouts affect your mental health.

Resting after workouts is crucial because your brain also needs time to relax. If you don’t rest, you risk decreased motivation, fatigue and worsened performance in future workouts.

A consistent routine is crucial, but you should reevaluate your schedule if your exercise sessions feel burdensome. Spread your exercises throughout the week or switch up your routine to avoid burnout.

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How to recover after your workout

Working out is an accomplishment to be proud of during the day, but your fitness goals shouldn’t stop there. Here are three ways to recover after exercise and give your body the rest it needs:

1. Try yoga

Stretching is vital in your post-workout recovery, so get creative and try yoga. Each session will feel like a workout by itself, so you might think of it as active recovery.

Yoga helps you breathe and relax after exercise.

There are numerous types of yoga to try, so pick the one that best suits your physical abilities. For instance, hot yoga cranks up the thermostat to more than 30 degrees Celsius (more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit) to emulate the climate of southern India. Hatha yoga could be suitable for recovery because people often use it for restoration.

2. Eat nutritious meals

Post-workout recovery is easier when you have a nutritious meal afterwards.

Experts say your body needs carbs and protein to restore glycogen storage when you burn a lot of energy. Grilled chicken and Greek yoghurt bring tasty protein, while roasted potatoes and fruit offer easy carbohydrates after your workout session.

3. Prioritise sleep

A good night’s sleep is critical for reaping the benefits of your workout.

The Sleep Foundation says your body produces growth hormones while you sleep, making your nightly rest pivotal to your fitness goals.

You can incorporate these tips into your sleep routine for better rest: 

  • Turn down the thermostat to cool your bedroom
  • Make your room as dark as possible using blackout curtains
  • Refrain from caffeine consumption in the evening
  • Eat your last meal at least three hours before going to bed.

Emphasising the importance of post-workout recovery

Exercise is the primary focus for your fitness goals, but it’s not the only priority.

Your nutrition and sleeping habits are only some ways you should care for your body after a workout. You need time to relax and recover, so give yourself time to recoup between workouts and don’t leave your mental health behind.

Beth Rush - Writer - SHE DEFINED

Beth Rush

This article was written by Beth Rush.

Beth is the nutrition editor at Body+Mind and has more than 5 years of experience writing about how to sample global cuisines sustainably. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag. Subscribe to Body+Mind for more posts by Beth Rush!