Let’s face it, you Healthy Fit women really know how to work up a sweat in the gym! Now it’s time to learn how to cool your body down afterward to help your muscles and joints recover properly from all that hard work.
If you just had your best performance in spin class ever, or you maybe you just squatted using weights for the first time, you can probably expect to be a little sore and perhaps exhausted.
Although there are some researchers who say that a cool-down isn’t as necessary as previously thought, everyone can agree that a proper cool down (think light cardio such as walking or an easy short cycle session) will help you avoid feeling sick or light-headed. Why? Well after an especially intense session at the gym, the blood vessels in your legs are expanded to send more blood to your legs and feet, while your heart is really working and pumping fast. If you just stop, with no cool down, your heart will slow down and your blood can pool in your legs and feet. This can cause you to feel dizzy, or worse, you could possibly pass out.
You also definitely want to get in a proper stretching session. After you workout, your muscles naturally contract, and stretching will not only help prevent them from shrinking, it will help increase flexibility and improve the range of motion of your joints.
Tips from the Mayo Clinic
- Keep stretching gentle
- Don’t bounce.
- If you feel pain, you’ve stretched too far.
- Hold a stretch for about 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
- If you have a problem area or the stretch is particularly helpful for pain or discomfort, you may benefit from repeating the stretch.
You probably already know how important it is to stay hydrated during your workout, but it’s just as important afterward. Experts say to drink one 20-24 oz bottle of water for every hour of exercise. If you’re urine is light yellow to clear a few hours after your workout, it’s a good sign that you’re hydrating properly. If it’s dark yellow, you may be dehydrated (if it’s any other color, or if this persists, get yourself to a doctor.)
And don’t wait to long to do it. According to Active.com, “the first 60 minutes following exercise, muscles convert carbohydrate-rich foods and beverages into glycogen up to three times faster than at other times. (The most effective period is 15 to 30 minutes after exercise.) Make immediate post-workout meals a part of your routine to avoid fatigue throughout the day and injuries during runs.”
Moderate exercisers need about 30-40 grams of carbohydrates after an hour of exercise, but high-intensity exercisers need more—around 50-60 grams for each hour they exercised. Keep it healthy, avoid overly processed snacks, and instead think fruit and whole grains.
And don’t forget to get in some protein! Protein will help keep your body from breaking down muscle tissue, and instead aid in the process of rebuilding your muscles. To do this, add some almond butter to that apple, or some Greek yogurt with fruit.