Some days it takes a Herculean effort to drag ourselves to the gym. But, if we are going to put forth the effort to workout, we want to make sure our hard work moves us closer to our fitness goals. While it may be incredibly tempting to collapse on the nearest couch right after hitting your last rep, there are a few things you should avoid doing if you want to reap the rewards from your workout. Here are a few common 8 post-workout mistakes we're all guilty of making--and how to fix them.
Passing on the Cooldown
Some days you are counting the seconds until the end of your workout, and when that timer finally goes off the last thing you want to do is spend more time in the gym. But spending five minutes to stretch and cool down provides the body with a smooth transition back to rest by reducing heart and breathing rates, cooling body temperature and returning muscles to their optimal length-tension relationship.
Staying in Your Sweaty Clothes
With a "to-do" list that never ends, we often find ourselves rushing right from the gym to the next activity. Even though our exercise gear looks great at the gym AND the store, staying in sweaty clothes can cause skin rashes and bacterial infections (including yeast--and even staph--infections). Changing into a dry set of clothes is optimal, but if you absolutely don't have time, make sure your exercise attire is made of moisture-wicking synthetic fabrics and wipe down your skin with a towel or post-workout wipe before heading out.
Skipping the Shower
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous mistake, and it may be obvious to most of us since a good sweat session leaves us smelling, well, interesting to say the least. Showering after you exercise is very important. Leaving sweat and bacteria on your skin can cause breakouts and infections--not to mention that distinctive unpleasant odor. Leave yourself some time after your workout to soap up (or at least rinse off) and change into dry clothes. Truly pressed for time? Use baby or gym wipes to get the stink and bacteria off of your skin until you have time to change.
Waiting Too Long to Refuel
We know we SHOULD refuel in that magic 30-minute window after a workout, but it feels like something always comes up: we're in a huge rush, we forgot to pack our post-workout snack or maybe our workout was so intense that the thought of trying to eat solid food just turns our stomach. Suddenly it's two hours later and we're running on empty. Keep a few portable snacks in your gym bag (such as high-quality protein bars) and remind yourself to refuel after your cooldown. If solid food is too much for your stomach to handle, try a protein smoothie or liquid electrolyte replacement drink to give your body some fuel until you sit down for a full meal.
Slacking Off on Hydration
In an ideal world, we'd start every workout perfectly hydrated and ready to go. But some mornings we barely have time to chug a (very necessary) cup of coffee before we hit the gym, leaving our bodies parched before we even get started. Make your water bottle a gym bag essential and prevent dehydration by sipping during your workout. Dehydration is a key contributor to post-workout fatigue, as well--so once you're finished with your activity, stay on top of your water consumption until you are adequately rehydrated (your urine should be a pale yellow).
Overestimating Calorie Burn
It may feel like you burned off an entire pepperoni pizza during your workout, but most people grossly overestimate just how many calories they torched during a training session. Treating yourself to a huge unhealthy meal after your workout can undo all of the hard work you just put in! Exercise can help you create the necessary caloric deficit to lose weight or body fat, but it's important to stick to healthy foods and pay attention to portion sizes, no matter how intense of a workout you may have just had.
Heading Straight to Happy Hour
That "I just crushed this workout" feeling is totally worthy of celebration, but before you head to the bar to toast your fitness, consider this: drinking alcohol immediately after a workout has been shown to increase dehydration and can slow muscle recovery. You can still indulge in that post-workout beer, but drink water for at least 30 minutes after your workout to refuel properly before hitting the bar.
Forgetting to Track Your Progress
You'll never know just how much of a fitness rock star you've become if you don't keep track of your workouts. Looking back on how far you've come can be a huge confidence boost, and taking notes on your workouts each day (distance run, weight ligted, how your body looks and feels, etc.) can help you celebrate your progress and act as a guide to help you set new, effective exercise goals.