5 Mistakes We Make After Exercise

Post-Workout Recovery Mistakes

Exhausted woman post workout
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What do you do after you exercise? If you're like me, you usually go home and sit on the couch. Or if you exercise in the morning, you shower, change and head to work.  Do those habits sound familiar?  If so, it probably means that you're making one or more huge post-workout recovery mistakes.

A healthy post-workout routine is essential for optimal fitness. And if you're trying to lose weight, your post-workout ritual can make or break the success of your program. So for my own benefit and for the benefit of my readers, I'm busting the five biggest post workout recovery mistakes.  These are the things we forget to do - or do wrong - that ultimately make our workout routines less successful.

Eat (Like You Didn't Exercise)

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Post workout nutrition is essential to maintain a fit and healthy body. So you need to know what to eat after you exercise. Most experts recommend that you take in a reasonable combination of carbohydrates and protein in order to replace essential nutrients that were lost during the workout and to aid in the recovery process.

But what do many of us do? We use the exercise session as justification to overeat the wrong foods. If you're trying to lose weight, a single post-workout binge can completely undo the hard work you did in the gym. And then you won't lose weight.

If weight loss is your goal, the key to successful post-workout nutrition is to eat like you didn't exercise. Of course you should refuel properly.  But you shouldn't overeat because you worked hard at the gym.  Be mindful of your food intake and include the calories from your post-workout meal in your total calorie plan for the day.

Stretch (Like You've Got Nowhere to Go)

running girl stretching
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If you're a smart exerciser, you leave stretching to the end of your workout. That way, your muscles are warm and flexibility training is easier and more comfortable. But what do most of us do (myself included)? We skip the stretching part of our workout and hit the shower.

Stretching at the end of your workout is important to maintain healthy joints, healthy muscles and prevent injury. If you're trying to lose weight flexibility training has even greater benefits - like stress reduction and improved sleep.

While I wouldn't necessarily recommend moving the stretching part of your routine to the beginning of your workout, I would suggest that you stretch like you've got nowhere better to go. That means that you commit to a solid 10-15 minutes of full body flexibility training.  Schedule this part of your workout routine just like you schedule your ab work and your cardio. It's that important.

Rest (Like You Have Ants in Your Pants)

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This is the post workout recovery mistake that I make most often...and I'll bet you do too.  After you exercise, you look forward to a restful recovery period - on the couch, in a chair or even in bed. Sound familiar?  It's a huge mistake!

Post workout recovery and rest is essential. Your muscles need time to rebuild and your body needs time to relax. But you need to stay active in this phase for two reasons. First, if you continue to do easy movement, your joints stay more limber and mobile.  And second, you continue to burn more calories through NEAT.

If you are trying to lose weight, the number of calories you burn from NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) can make or break your weight loss success. The number will vary from person to person, but if you stay mobile you can easily burn hundreds more calories during the day and maybe even more than you did during your workout.

So how do you stay active when your body just wants to rest? One way is to dress to stay active. Believe it or not, your clothing choices can have a big impact on how much you move each day. I like to wear compression gear after I work out. Many experts say it speeds recovery and even provides greater benefits to people who are trying to lose weight.

Write (Like You're With Your Therapist)

post workout recovery thoughts
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So how did your workout make you feel? 

Believe it or not, writing down your feelings about your workout may help you stick to your program over the long term. A workout journal serves as a reminder of your progress and your accomplishments. It is also helpful to review if you have problems losing weight or completing your sessions.

So it's a good idea to take a few minutes after your exercise session to jot down a few notes about how you felt during the workout. Include information about:

  • what you did (length of workout, types of exercise)
  • how you felt when you started
  • how you felt during the workout (confident? strong? uneasy?)
  • how you feel now that you're done
  • other factors that may have influenced your mood (work stress, relationships, etc)

If you have a workout journal, keep it in your gym bag so that you can write down notes immediately after your workout is complete.  I use my Polar M400 to rate my workouts - it's one of the coolest things about the device. The app allows you to choose an adjustable smiley face to reflect your post workout mood.

Plan (Like You Work Out for a Living)

how to plan workouts
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What's the most important post-workout recovery tool?  A pen...or a smartphone, or calendar or whatever tool you use to schedule really important meetings and events. As you finish your workout, you should plan your next session as if it is the most important thing on your agenda. That way, you can be sure that it will get done.

Of course, you're not going to want to make a plan to do the same workout you just did. The best weight loss workout plans involve different types of activities, different durations and different types of training.  It's smart to have a weekly schedule in place to make sure it you get the right amount of exercise for weight loss.  But as you finish your workout, revisit that plan or at least finalize the details it so you know which workout is next on the agenda.

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