By Callie McBride
Question of the day: is there anything better than that post-workout feeling? You know, of endorphins rushing through your body, your arms and legs tingly all over, and your mind completely free of anything but the sweet exercise burn?
Actually, maybe. For me, it’s stretching. And I have a feeling that most people probably don’t do it enough…mostly because I myself don’t do it enough. But when I do, it makes my workout more complete. I love to do a quick warm-up before a HIIT workout or an outdoor run (such as jumping jacks or jump-roping) in order to loosen my body up and get ready for what’s to come. Post-workout, I stretch with yoga; I sit back in downward dog for a couple of minutes to stretch my legs, rock forward to upward-facing dog to stretch out my abdomen, and then rest in child’s pose.
Stretching after a workout improves blood flow to muscles, which promotes muscle recovery. Another small addition to my workout that makes a big difference is proper hydration-like coconut water! In fact, there are a number of seemingly naggy little details that, when paired with a tough workout, make the experience more enjoyable. These “little details” will also most likely increase the likelihood of getting desired results, whether that is weight loss, weight maintenance, more strength, or just a healthy lifestyle. I’m here to give you a reminder of all those things and how best to utilize them, before and after your next sweat session.
What you eat before a workout definitely matters. In order to have enough energy to get in an intense and effective workout, try eating complex carbs, like a banana or whole wheat toast with a bit of peanut/almond butter spread. It’s also imperative to be fully hydrated before, during, and after the workout so that your muscles receive enough oxygen. Like I said before, I always make sure to warm up my body, get my muscles going and the blood flowing before I set out for my workout.
Stretching after a workout will elongate the muscles again, because when muscles contract and expand during the workout, they are building up strength–not to mention it feels so good! Yoga poses are the perfect form of stretching, along with deep side lunges, tricep stretches, or even the most basic forward bend. This time of rest allows you to focus on your breathing, be in tune with your body, and just let yourself cool down.
And as far as eating? It has been said time and time again, but protein is what you want directly after a workout. It facilitates muscle recovery so that your muscles look lean and toned. An easy protein drink that I love to make is blended brown rice protein powder, water, some almond milk, and half a banana. Quick, effective, and delicious!
A particular muscle soother that I’ve come to love is with a foam roller. By rolling it under each muscle group until a tender spot is found, I can improve my posture, lengthen my muscles, improve my range of motion, and really care for specific parts of my body.
Finally, one last detail that can be monotonous but is so effective in ensuring great nutrition: food journaling! I mentioned in a previous post– 5 Simple Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle– that food journaling is so helpful for maintaining a clean diet. Even if you get in an amazing workout, following with unhealthy junk food isn’t doing anything to help you out. I write down what I eat every day so that I know what’s going into my body, how it’s affecting how I feel, and what works best for me. This way, if I ever feel like I’m slipping up with my diet, or am feeling really run down, I am able to look back on particularly good weeks to remind myself what foods make me feel my very best.
What other little extras do you incorporate into your workout regimen?