6 tips to get the most out of your exercise
A few years back, you could always find my workout buddy and I at the Taco Bell across the street after we’d kicked butt in our boot camp class. We’d just worked up a sweat, we rationalized, and surely were due a treat. We knew we were wrong as two left shoes (and so were all the other gym rats who made a beeline along with us), but we’d say to each other, in hushed whispers, “If this were bad, they wouldn’t have built a Taco Bell so close to the gym.”
Um, hello?! Sometimes all the exercise in the world can be undone by post-workout mistakes. Fortunately, it’s easy to ensure your exercise investment reaps the best outcome. Just follow these six tips so you don’t commit these common after exercise errors:
- You grab high-calorie food as a reward. That 300-calorie milkshake will negate the 300 calories you burned in your boxing class. Replace fluids lost from sweat with water instead of high-calorie sports drinks. The exception to this is if your workout involves high-energy activities, such as training for a marathon or biking long distances.
- You don’t refuel your body. No, you don’t want to go for the burger and fries after your workout, but not refueling can cause your metabolism to slow down as the body stores nutrients as fat for future energy needs. Good options include: a hard-boiled egg, a bran muffin, nuts or a protein shake. They all provide the correct mix of protein and carbs to keep your metabolism operating best.
- You don’t stretch. To stretch or not to stretch—and when—has been the subject of much debate. Here’s what we know: Stretching before you exercise has not been shown to prevent injury or curb soreness. But the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that we stretch each of our major muscle groups at least two times each week; it helps us stay flexible. Though you can stretch any time, you’re more flexible after exercise because you’ve increased the circulation to those muscles and joints. So save the last five minutes or so of your workout—after your cool down walk—for a stretching session. This helps you reduce muscle fatigue and rebound faster from a tough workout.
- You don’t schedule your next workout. You got out of bed, got dressed and ran that 3 miles. Congratulations! You’ll only see consistent progress if you make exercise a regular part of your life, so set your Fitbit and stick to your schedule.
- You don’t get enough rest. To build muscle mass, you have to tear the muscle fiber during a workout and then allow it to repair itself while you rest. If you skip the rebuilding stage, your muscles are more likely to be exposed to injury from overuse pulls and tears.
- You don’t change out of your workout clothes. You might not be bothered by your funky clothes after you’ve hula-hooped your way through an hour-long session, but the moisture underneath your clothes—even those made of wicking fabric—can can cause body acne and yeast infections. Shower and change into dry clothes as soon as possible after your workout.