The benefits of regular exercise on your physical and mental well-being are well beyond debate. In fact, not only does working out allow you to stay in shape and reduce your risk of heart disease, but it also promotes better brain function, mood, and sleep quality. Whether you’re a hardcore gymgoer or a sports enthusiast, allowing yourself to relax after a draining session is essential to reaping these benefits. It also makes it easier to preserve your health in the long run and boosts athletic performance. In that spirit, this dedicated guide features 4 effective ways to help your body and mind recover after an intense workout.
Full Post-Workout Stretch
Whether it’s cardio, weight lifting, swimming, tennis, or any other athletic activity, it’s no secret that physical exercise can be downright exhausting. Being out of breath and experiencing muscle soreness is entirely normal, which means giving your body the time to cool down is essential to avoid over-exhausting yourself. With that in mind, stretching is a true-and-tested method to help relieve muscle pain before and after a hard workout. As you may know, stretches fall under either one of two categories: dynamic and static.
The most common dynamic stretches include butt kicks, high knees, leg swings, jumping jacks, and monster walks. By contrast, static stretches don’t require movement and involve arm and wrist stretches, quad stretches, toe touches, child’s pose, and more. The key to a proper post-workout stretch is finding the right balance between dynamic and static stretches. Because each one targets a specific body part, it’s up to you to follow an effective routine that allows you to stretch every muscle in your body. Don’t hesitate to look up online tutorials or ask an experienced athlete for recommendations on the best cooldown stretches after intense exercise.
Why should you go through the trouble of consuming artificial substances when you can rely on natural remedies to aid your post-workout recovery? Nowadays, many athletes are turning to organic plants, leaves, roots, and more to promote relaxation and help them deal with post-exercise pain. These often contain natural compounds that boast remarkable anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation and swelling in the muscles.
Fortunately, today’s great market offering will cater to everyone’s tastes and preferences. Whether that’s a power smoothie or essential oils, you’ll have your pick of the lot. If you haven’t tried them yet, CBD gummies are gaining tremendous popularity for those looking to alleviate workout pain, but also promote better sleep, reduce anxiety, and more. While you might be on the fence about trying a hemp-derived product, know that, unlike THC, CBD does not contain the psychoactive compounds that make you “high.” In any case, conducting enough research on the benefits of CBD products and where you can order them will guarantee an excellent first-time experience.
Cold and Heat Therapy
There’s more to the ice baths that athletes and fitness influencers love to broadcast on social media after working out than meets the eye. Despite apparent self-torture, applying a cold patch to a sore area or immersing yourself in an ice bath is a formidable way to recover after an intense session. The cold helps ease pain and inflammation by reducing the swelling that occurs around tendons and joints. It also boosts blood circulation. For that reason, using ice bags or cooling compression sleeves on targeted areas after a workout can significantly help you neutralize post-exercise pain.
Perhaps paradoxically, heat therapy can be just as efficient a choice to treat your body after a workout. In fact, spending time in a sauna, steam room, or hot tub has been shown to speed up muscle recovery considerably. Just like ice baths, exposing yourself to heat promotes better circulation, and with more blood flowing to your muscles, this allows you to recuperate faster and feel more relaxed (not to mention the dry sauna heat can help you burn some fat as well). You’ll feel the tension leaving your body and be ready to tackle the rest of your day with great energy and confidence.
Massages and Meditating
We saved the best for last! When it comes to relaxing after a tiring session, few things can beat the pleasures of a nice deep-tissue massage. It’s a healthy way to relieve the built-up tightness in your muscles and promote mental relaxation for a stellar post-workout recovery. The benefits of massages include pain and stress relief, anxiety management, increased alertness, and improved sleep. If you can’t afford a weekly full-body run and other spa treatments, you can invest in a practical massage gun, or even massage yourself.
In parallel, practicing meditation is an excellent way to complement your recovery. As every accomplished athlete knows, it’s important to keep a strong mental game to perform at peak condition and reach your fitness goals. With that in mind, meditation increases nervous system activity to help you rest, digest, and recover, leaving you with a sense of mental accomplishment and peace of mind.
For the best results, choose a relaxing environment and find a comfortable position to meditate for 20 to 30 minutes after a workout. Focus on deep breathing and use visualization techniques to promote body relaxation and mental appeasement. Lastly, you can look into ways to incorporate yoga into your daily routine to reap these same benefits.
At the end of the day, there’s no reason to skimp on post-workout recovery. After great physical exertion, our bodies naturally need some time to heal from the effort, even if that simply involves sitting down and contemplating your session for a few minutes. As we’ve seen, there are plenty of effective methods to help your body and mind recuperate, whether that’s getting a massage or building the courage to try cold therapy for the first time. By keeping these 4 tips in mind and conducting further research on natural techniques and remedies, you can make your time at the gym or on the playing field just a little less stressful and more enjoyable.
Chris is an experienced Calisthenics practitioner focused on isometric exercises and street workout. He founded thehybridathlete.com in 2017, which was subsequently acquired by theyhybridathlete.com
He is based in Portland and has been working out using solely his own body weight and bars for the past 6 years.