While going to the gym can become routine after a certain amount of time, there are definitely ways you can mess up your fitness efforts if you engage in bad habits immediately afterwards.
From my experience of working with athletes over the years as an exercise physiologist, here are the top 5 worst things you could do post-workout.
Get out of damp gear immediately.
Even if you didn’t sweat that much, worn or soggy clothing is an environment bacteria love to cling to, and it can also give you a deep chill that is hard to recover from.
Regardless of whether you can shower right away or not, change your clothes, socks, and shoes immediately to keep your muscles warm and loose.
This promotes good circulation, which aids the recovery process after a workout.
It always feels good to get out of sneakers after a tough workout, but be sure to put on a supportive pair of shoes or sandals if your legs or feet are feeling especially spent.
The muscles in your feet also get tired, so your post-workout shoes need to have adequate support.
It’s easy to feel like you’ve earned a day on the sofa binge-watching Netflix when you’ve spent the last two hours at the gym.
Don’t succumb to this.
Light activity is a great recovery tool because it keeps blood moving, aiding your recovery by repairing and refueling your body.
Plan some light activity throughout the day, even if you are headed to work. Get up, walk around, do some gentle stretches while standing, and breathe deeply.
Plan to drink and eat after your workouts, preferably within 20 to 30 minutes of finishing.
If you are headed right to work, or have other commitments immediately after a workout, pack a cooler with some healthy snacks beforehand so you can grab and go—possibly even eating in the car.
Be sure your snacks include protein, a little fat, and some complex carbohydrates for replenishing energy needs. Good options include low-fat chocolate milk, a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, almonds, fruit, or yogurt.
Keep plenty of water on hand, too, so you can rehydrate throughout the day.
And as easy as it is to do, avoid the other extreme of pigging out after a hard workout.
Don’t rationalize that you can eat anything you want because you exercised today.
Replacing the calories that you burned during your workout is all too easy, so don’t undo all your gym time by overeating.