Everybody knows that hard work equals a good workout. The more effort you put into your run, swim, yoga pose or fitness class, the better results you should see. However, I’ve learned over the years that it’s not just about the effort during a workout that matters — the effort before and after a workout are equally important.
Here are five tips for before and after working out that will help you stay healthy, avoid injury, fuel properly and recover quickly from exercise.
Dehydration can decrease your performance, and more importantly, lead to health emergencies if severe. According to researchers at Texas A&M University, staying hydrated enhances performance and helps delay fatigue and prevent injuries.
Although plain water should be fine for workouts under an hour, the study recommends that endurance athletes drink fluids with electrolytes and carbohydrates during prolonged or intense athletic events.
My rule of thumb is to always have water on hand for indoor workouts such as yoga or spinning, and to carry a bottle of water or a sports drink with me on any outdoor run that lasts for more than an hour.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Don’t jump right into a high-intensity exercise without warming up first, and never end a workout without allowing your body to recover and cool down.
As the American College of Sports Medicine recommends, spend at least 5-10 minutes warming up and stretching your muscles before exercise to prevent injury, and make sure to stretch and recover after your workout to aid in muscle recovery.
I always do dynamic warm up exercises before a run and fit in a few stretches after I exercise — even if it means doing toe-touches in the shower or runner’s lunges while I brush my teeth.
Eat a Balanced Diet
There’s a saying that when it comes to working out that you’ll “get out what you put in” — meaning if you don’t put good foods into your body, you won’t get good results from your workout.
Eat a balanced diet high in protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains to make sure you properly fuel for and recover from your workouts. Some of my favorite snacks are oatmeal, bananas, nut butters, eggs, beans and lean meats.
We all know tiredness can take a toll on our everyday lives, so it’s no surprise that it can affect a workout, too. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep plays an important role in athletic performance, and vice versa.
If you sleep well, you’ll be able to dedicate more focus and energy to your workout. And if you work out, you’ll likely sleep better, too. It’s a win-win.
One tip I have is to work out at the same time every day, if possible, so that your body can get into a regular sleep and exercise rhythm. I like to run in the mornings, when I’m well-rested and have the most energy.
A well-rounded workout schedule includes days of high intensity, days of moderate intensity and a good mix of strength, agility and endurance exercises.
That’s why tips for before and after working out are so important. It also includes dedicated rest days. I’ve found that if I plan my workouts a week in advance, I can make sure I balance my exercise routine and allow my body to properly recover and prepare for each workout.
Not to mention that having a calendar holds me accountable to actually getting my workouts done!
How do you get the most out of your workouts? Let us know in the comments below.
Consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program.