Pushing your body to the max can help you improve your cardio and build muscle, but can also leave you sore and fatigued the following days. In order to recover faster, it’s important you know some ways to relax after a workout. Take a look at our top recovery tips below, so you can feel fresh and ready to go the next time you hit the pavement or lift weights at the gym.
1. Have Casein Protein
You might already have a post-workout shake, but it’s really critical to have one that contains casein protein, as it can deliver a slow release of relief to keep soreness down on a regular basis, explains Steve Hertzler, PhD, RD, and chief scientific officer for Abbott’s EAS Sports Nutrition to Bustle. “When casein is in the micellar form, it is slowly digested in the stomach — it is hard for digestive enzymes to get access to it. Studies show that micellar casein releases into the blood slowly, over a period of about six to seven hours.
Thus, it is a great protein to eat right before you go to bed, as it can continue to feed your muscles while you sleep,” Hertzler says. Plus, sleep is super important for recovery of muscles, so try eating more magnesium in the day, such as in beans or seeds, says Martin Rawls-Meehan, CEO and Co-Founder of sleep technology company, Reverie® to Bustle.
2. Water Immersion
According to Nicholas M. Licameli, PT, DPT from Professional Physical Therapy over email with Bustle, “Water immersion is the use of ice baths or hot tubs, and research shows it can reduce muscle soreness and limit losses in performance.” Here’s how to do it: “Use cold water immersion (8-15°C/46°F-59°F) for 5-15 minutes or alternate one to four minute bouts of cold and hot water (38°C-42°C/100°F-108°F). Be sure to be submerged to shoulder height,” Licameli says.
3. Take a nice, deep breath
Breathing unconsciously from the chest instead of the diaphragm requires a lot more effort and can result in anxiety, asthma and other pulmonary issues. Seize the opportunity to breathe properly when trying to relax post-workout.
Lying down, sitting or standing up straight, loosely cross your hands over your stomach and take a nice, deep belly breath. You should feel your stomach rise and fall and fingers pull apart from each other. As you inhale deeply through your nose, hold the breath for two or three seconds then exhale fully from your mouth. You’ll quickly begin to relax as your heart rate returns to normal.
4. Roll out and massage
When your muscles are sore and achy, one of the best ways to prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is by rolling out your muscles with a foam roller. A foam roller can target deep tissue and improve circulation by flushing out old blood and lactic acid.
Another option is getting a deep tissue massage, either from a professional masseuse or using a deep tissue massager, such as a massage gun.
Icing sore muscles is one of the best ways to relax after a workout which can help relieve pain and inflammation. When you ice, blood flow is reduced in that particular area, which reduces swelling that causes pain around tendons and joints. You can go the traditional route and use ice bags and place them on sore muscles for ten minutes at a time, or you can use ice wraps or cooling compression sleeves that provide pressure and cooling. For more centered areas, there are also ice cups you can pop in the freezer and rub on areas like your feet, calves, and shoulders.
When you sleep, your body enters a restorative state where growth hormones are released to rebuild torn tissue and help you recover. If you’re not getting adequate sleep, you can be doing your body a serious disservice. While staying up late to binge-watch your favorite Netflix show or talk on the phone with your friends can be hard opportunities to pass up, it’s best to put away any distractions, such as your cellphone and laptop, away early in the evening so you can wind down and get some rest.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, consider investing in a new mattress that takes pressure off of your back, neck, shoulders, and legs. A weighted blanket can also help reduce restless leg syndrome that comes after an intense workout, and can also provide compression to help circulate your blood.