Eight simple steps to treat your body right, before you crash on the couch.
Let’s face it—a good workout makes most people desperate for a soft couch and a strong blast of A/C—but twenty minutes of motionless bliss isn’t always the best way to treat your body following an intense cardio session.
We know that most people don’t have a foam roller, or the time to take an Epsom salt bath, which is why we’ve compiled this list of simple, quick, and effective techniques you can use to make tomorrow morning a little less sore.
1. Hydrate ASAP.
It’s the most obvious step, the most important step, and strangely, the most commonly overlooked step. It doesn’t matter if you’re running inside on a treadmill, in the rain, or in the desert sun; your body is losing fluids as you sweat, and you need to replace them.
Water is clearly the cheapest, most natural, and most readily available, but do not underestimate the effectiveness of Gatorade or any other electrolytic drink. Aim for 16-20 ounces, but don’t be afraid to go over that if you’re running in the summer and sweating more than usual.
2. Stretch! Stretch! Stretch!
It’s not only good for your muscles, but also gives you an opportunity to identify any problem areas. Focus on the major muscle groups (hamstrings, quads, hips, calves), and, if you do have a foam roller, use it to soothe any knots, tightness, or injuries.
Stretching after a cardio session is proven to decrease injury rates and improve recovery, meaning that you’ll be able to keep giving it your all, season after season.
3. Eat Something.
Within 25 minutes of your run being over, you should have stretched a little bit, drunk some Gatorade; now it’s time for a snack. Granola and yogurt, a bagel with peanut butter, or our favorite, a big glass of chocolate milk, are all great ways to refuel following your workout.
If you’re out and about and don’t have a kitchen at your disposal, bring along a granola bar or a banana for a quick and convenient snack.
4. Shower or (Ice) Bath
Now it’s time to peel off those sweaty workout clothes and get back to feeling human, but just like everything in fitness, there’s a right way to do it. First of all, if you have time, a decent ice maker, and a hardy constitution, an ice bath is one of the best things you can do for your muscles post work out. It might be (will be) exceptionally uncomfortable, especially at first, but the benefits will speak for themselves the next morning. Stay in it for 10-15 minutes and follow up with a shower for maximum effect.
If you don’t have twenty minutes and a pile of ice to burn, a cold or mid-temp shower both feels great, and helps your cooldown process .
5. Finally: The Nap
That’s right, everybody’s favorite part, the nap. It’s pretty simple and it’s pretty brilliant: kick up your feet and relax. At the very least stare at your phone for twenty minutes and do all the nothing you’ve been wanting to do all day. If you’re lucky and have the time and money for a massage, that’s even better, but the principal is the same.
When you’re done with the nap, find the time eat a full, balanced meal and continue on with your day. You probably won’t be able to do all of this every time you work out—we know life gets busy—but by adding just a few of these steps to your post-cardio routine, you can seriously reap the rewards of a happier, springier, healthier body. Not to mention, you now have an excuse to drink chocolate milk.