It’s pretty common for people to think that the most important part of a workout is of course, the actual workout. And while the actual exercise that you do does matter, it shouldn’t get all of the focus.
The things you do before and after you exercise plays a big role in improving your results and sets you up to achieve long term health and fitness goals.
To make sure your workout routine isn’t going to waste, here are some of the things you should prioritise doing before and after your workout.
Before Working Out
1. Keep your body fueled
Just like your car won’t run without fuel, neither will your body. While you don’t need to have a 3-course meal before a workout (you don’t want to go in feeling full), if you’ve ever found yourself feeling dizzy, lightheaded or a little bit lethargic during a workout, it might be because you haven’t eaten, or eaten enough.
It’s not uncommon for people to not feel like eating before working out – especially if they are early morning exercisers – but if you can, consider having a pre-workout snack. Perhaps half of a banana or a piece of toast.
Like we said, you don’t want to be eating too much beforehand, but a small snack might be the missing ingredient in your workouts feeling amazing.
2. Go to the hydration station
Keeping yourself hydrated is already an important part of day-to-day life, and it becomes even more important if you’re spending time sweating out plenty of fluids each day.
Water is the best medicine when it comes to staying hydrated. Water is crucial in regulating body temperature, as well as ensuring your cells and organs can function as they should too. Being hydrated also keeps your energy levels in check and will have you feeling great – especially given a leading cause of headaches is dehydration.
The amount of water you should drink does differ from person, and you don’t want to over do it and feel like a washing machine on the inside. Many health practitioners recommend around 2 litres of water per day – this may be too much for some or not enough for others, but it’s a good place to start.
3. Sleep and get enough of it
When we talk about before the workout, we don’t just mean in the minutes leading up to it, we mean from the moment you go to bed – it’s the reset for a new day.
One of the most vital things you need for a workout to really be worthwhile is rest, especially in the form of sleep.
Not only does rest allow you to conserve energy so that you feel energised for your workout but it’s also the time where your muscle tissue actually recovers between workouts. A lack of sleep can lead to less physical activity during the day which can then lead to reduced muscle strength, especially during workouts.
Getting enough sleep can be a challenge that many of us face, whether it’s due to a busy lifestyle or poor sleep habits, there are some things you can do in an attempt to promote sleep – try putting your phone down and away in the half hour leading up to your bedtime. It is well documented that the lighting from electronics can make it difficult to fall asleep.
4. Invest in the right workout gear
When we say workout gear, we’re not talking about equipment and machinery, we’re talking about clothing and footwear. While you don’t need to spend a lot of money on new workout outfits and matching sets, it’s important to wear clothing and shoes that are appropriate for what you’re doing.
You want to be able to feel comfortable and be able to actually perform the exercises you’re doing without feeling uncomfortable or restricted. The last thing you want is to feel pain from not wearing the right footwear or be too busy pulling your pants up between every move.
The better you feel during the workout, the more likely you’re going to want to do it again and again.
5. Get the juices flowing and the blood pumping
Every workout should include some form of warm – even the really short ones.
A warm-up helps to loosen up the body, raise the body temperature and get you ready for your actual workout. This reduces the chances of injury occurring and can also allow your workout to last longer and feel better than if you were to just shock your body straight into the workout.
There are lots of different ways to warm-up for exercise, so if you’re looking for some warm up inspiration – check out these warm-up exercises.
After Working Out
1. Cooling Down
The aim with a cool down is to allow your body the chance to return back to its normal state, with your blood pressure and heart rate closer to its normal level.
When you stop exercising suddenly it can lead you to feeling dizzy, lightheaded, and ill. Even when you’re puffed and exhausted and just waiting for the exercise to end, make sure you spend a few extra minutes slowing down. If you’ve been running, keep walking for another 5 minutes or so. If you’re on a treadmill, there is usually a cool-down setting which allows you to gradually decrease the intensity and speed to allow the return back to normal.
2. Stretch it out
If you’ve ever felt super sore and/or stiff after working out, then this is for you. While stretching may be considered a cool down, especially after slower movements like yoga and Pilates, it’s still important to do this at the end of every workout session.
Stretching while your muscles are still warm helps to relax your muscles, improve your flexibility, and avoid delayed onset muscle soreness.
It’s also a nice short break after your workout that gives you a chance to think about how that workout made you and your body feel. It can be difficult to find the time to really think about the exercises we’ve performed, especially in the moment, but as you’re stretching, this can be a nice time to reflect on your workout.
3. Shower and change your clothes
While you might be heading off to run errands or you’re just in a bit of a rush, try your best to find the time to change your clothing as soon as possible after you work out.
If you spend too long in sweaty exercise gear – especially if it’s damp – you can run the risk of breakouts and skin infections from bacteria and germs.
A shower can also help to reduce your body temperature and make you feel good after working out. For some people, a cooler than usual shower can aid in their workout recovery too.
4. Eat and Hydrate
We mentioned both eating and hydration as an important part of your pre-workout routine. Well, they are just as important afterwards too.
To allow your body to recover from the workout, it certainly needs fuel. Once again, you don’t need to overindulge and get a big meal but nourishing your body with foods that have carbohydrates and protein will help to nourish and replenish the body which will help to rebuild muscle and promote recovery.
And as your body will lose water during your workout, you need to make sure you’re getting that water back in. You don’t need any post-workout fancy drinks either, water is great. It helps to increase the flexibility and strength of your muscles and helps to prevent headaches and tiredness, so get that H20!
5. Listen to your body
Don’t push yourself too hard to get your next workout in, whilst regular exercise is important, so to is rest and recovery. If you’re feeling very tired, sore, or uncomfortable, you might need a rest day.
It’s also important to listen to your body throughout the day. If you are feeling a little stiff or sore, you might need to stretch a bit more throughout the day or you could take some time out for a nice bath. You might have a slight injury or discomfort that may need to be checked out by a doctor.
Your body can tell you all sorts of things if you listen to it, so if something feels strange or different after a workout, take the time to think about why.
Work out with the friendliest team in Melbourne
We know that finding a place to workout and exercise can be a little overwhelming – which is why we work hard to create an environment where everyone is feels welcome.
Rec Xpress has 6 gyms in Melbourne’s Southeast suburbs, each with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, and a highly qualified and awesome team at each branch. Our memberships start from as little as $12 a week, and with 24/7 access, you can get your sweat on at any time.