Any trainer will tell you that the real progress happens after you hit the gym (that’s when your muscles are recovering and rebuilding). But are you undermining your own efforts?
No matter how much time and effort you put into your sweat sessions, you won’t see the results you want if you don’t make the right choices post-workout. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the most common mistakes that are sabotaging all of your hard work. Trust us, this is need-to-know stuff!
Mistake No. 1: You Skip the Cool Down
Taking the time to let your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal levels cuts your risk of injury, according to experts. Lee Boyce, owner of Boyce Training Systems in Toronto, suggests finishing up your workout with some light aerobics–like walking on a treadmill–to let your vitals return to their resting levels.
Mistake No. 2: You Forget to Stretch It Out
Performing some stretches post-workout can help reduce soreness the next day, says Jordan Metzl, M.D. And less soreness isn’t just more pleasant for you–it also means you’re likely to hit the gym again sooner. Win-win!
Mistake No. 3: You Don’t Snack Afterward
Food fuels you up before you start sweating, and it also helps your muscles repair themselves after your workout. Ideally, you’ll want to take in a combination of carbs and protein (like Greek yogurt with blueberries or a handful of nuts), suggests fitness expert Ben Greenfield.
Mistake No. 4: You Don’t Change Out of Your Clothes
As comfy as that pair of Lululemon leggings feels, you need to put on some clean clothes ASAP. Sweaty workout gear retains moisture, and wearing it after you’re done at the gym could lead to yeast infections, say experts. So hurry up and slip into some fresh garments when you get home.
Mistake No. 5: You Treat Yourself to a Celebratory Drink
Sorry, but a vodka-soda doesn’t count as a post-workout snack. Drinking alcohol immediately after a workout slows muscle recovery, dehydrates your body, and ups your risk of blood clots, says exercise physiologist Ellen Breeding. It’s best to drink water for at least 30 minutes afterward–and then you can hit the bar if you’d like.
Mistake No. 6: You Try to Get Away With Not Showering
Yeah, skipping your post-workout shower will probably make you the least popular person in the room. But there’s another reason to rinse off after you exercise: Letting perspiration sit on your skin encourages bacterial growth, which may cause rashes, say experts. Now we know why coaches always tell athletes to “hit the showers” after practice.
Mistake No. 7: You Skimp on Sleep
Sleep is essential for your body to recover after an intense workout. Why? Because that’s when your body really begins to heal and build stronger muscles, says fitness expert and Women’s Health advisory board member Rachel Cosgrove.