There are 3 key habits critical to the maintenance of a strong, lean, youthful physique. Diet and exercise are the most commonly known of the three. The third is the preservation and development of flexibility.
Having a supple body doesn’t mean you have to be able to be to do the splits, it means being able to hold good posture with ease, being able to effortlessly reach high cupboards, lowering yourself onto a sofa without triggering knee pain – everyday movements can become very painful if you don’t incorporate flexibility into your regular training routines
The perfect post workout routine
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1. 5min light cardio (heart rate around 135bpm) like walking / rowing / cycling
2. 10 min Stretches
3. Go home to Rest, Recover & Refuel
Why it matters
5mins of light at the end of your workout helps to increase circulation and lower your heart rate slowly, decreasing post-workout soreness. Follow this cardio with a set of static stretches (the stretches that you hold for 15sec – 1min) or try some PNF stretches.
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) is a muscle energy technique where you contract the muscle against resistance (usually another person) so that you create an isometric contraction (tension but no movement). The contraction is held for about ten seconds and then released, after which the muscle can stretch a little further.
PNF is an advanced, quick and very effective muscle energy stretching technique and works with your nervous system to allow your muscles to achieve greater length. Don’t be shy, ask one of the trainers in your gym to show you how.
One important note: not all muscles need to be stretched at the end of your workout. Focus on hitting only those areas that are exceptionally tight either from the workout or from daily posture. For most people, that means extra attention to the pecs, lats, traps, and hip flexors.
Using full Range of Movement (ROM) during your workout will increase your flexibility and everyday mobility . Going to the limits of your flexibility under an appropriate weight acts as a highly effective stretch and you need not stretch that muscle for as long, at the end of your workout. If you are in the habit of only using short-range movements this in turn shortens the muscle and leads to all sorts of problems.
A classic example is the big guy at the gym, typically with a huge chest and very hunched shoulders who suffers from long-lasting shoulder pain. He has been smashing his chest, trying to go as heavy as possible which he can only achieve by doing partial reps.
Over time this behaviour and absence of any flexibility work has led to chronic muscle pain, body pain and joint pain resulting from joint break down, muscle trigger points, and ligaments that have tightened and muscles that have failed to contract properly. At the gym, you have to leave your ego at the door
The use of foam rollers just before and if needed, during, your workout helps to loosen fascia. A fascia is a structure of connective tissue that surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves, binding some structures together, while permitting others to slide smoothly over each other.
When fascia develops areas and points of restricted movement it can severely reduce flexibility so pre and throughout post-workout foam rolling will reduce post-workout stretch time.
Rest, recover & refuel
Good recovery from training is essential to progress. This means getting plenty of sleep and resting your body. Your rest days don´t need to be spent on the couch however, active recovery, which is light exercise during the recovery phase, stimulates blood flow to the muscles to help reduce muscle pain allowing you to recover quicker.
Active recovery can include swimming, or a light jog. If you are progressively finding it harder and harder to motivate yourself to go to the gym or exercise, you’re really pushing yourself and you feel tired all the time – you may be over-training and need to give more time to recovery. Believe me, wind back the intensity of your training for 2 weeks and you will find your fitness will massively improve
Drinking plenty of water, a minimum of 3 litres a day, can help flush out toxins from your body and prevent dehydration, which can make muscle soreness even more painful and increase recovery time.
The latest research shows that to maximize recovery you don’t need to guzzle your protein shake as soon as your weights hit the floor or the instant you finish your workout, the “post workout window” lasts at least 24 hours and the best recovery nutrition is actually 2 meals, each including protein, good fats and a small portion of carbohydrate.
Unless you are a serious endurance athlete, protein synthesis needs to be the focus of the recovery intervention rather than glycogen (carbohydrate) replenishment. It has been shown that pre-workout meals, nocturnal feeding, and multiple post workout protein drinks are more beneficial than a single post workout drink.
Contrary to popular bro-science, light, macro nutritionally well-balanced pre-workout meals actually enhance muscle blood flow and nutrient delivery during exercise and reduce recovery time post workout, rather than sending blood gushing to the stomach away from the muscles
Be wary of topical heat creams, they provide the perception of pain relief, but have no effects on the underlying muscle. Also, while NSAIDS – nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil and Ibuprofen can help relieve the discomfort of muscle soreness. It’s not advisable to use NSAIDS on a consistent basis, but rather for an acute bout of soreness. Other treatments include ice, cold baths and epsom salt baths.
How to stop avoiding the perfect post workout routine
If you really are finding it hard to commit to a post workout stretch but you are concerned about keeping your body functioning then consider getting sports massage. A regular course of treatments are able to address any muscles imbalances, restrictions, tensions and normalizes the soft tissue so that you will remain injury free and therefore be able to take your training to it’s highest level.
Preparation is the key when it comes to the nutrition. Sacrifice 30min of television a day if you have to. Consider your priorities: what is more important – the body you’d kill for or the latest episode of Game of Thrones that’ll you’ll probably be able to catch up on later?
Scheduling your training and rest days will ensure you are getting enough recovery time. I find, to hit the hydration goals, keep a water diary for a week until you settle into a routine and start drinking at regular times.
I hope you have enjoyed this article on the post-workout routine. Check out some of my other articles too for some really useful tips and ideas on nutrition and training. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions – my email is below.
I’m running a special 4 week nutrition consultation course over Skype and WhatsApp or Facebook messenger for £150 that will teach you how to increase and stabilise your metabolism, drop body fat and bring new energy and vitality to your workouts as well as every area of your daily life. Just drop me a message to schedule a free consultation.
Chloe the RED