You just finished that last rep, knocked out that last mile, or completely exhausted yourself busting out pull-ups. Now, you want nothing more than to collapse on the couch, have a bagel, and veg out. It’s self-rewarding, in a way, and if things are done in the correct sequence, you’ll be relaxing and reloading for the next bout in the gym.
But there is a list of no-nos you’re going to want to keep in mind. They’re easy traps and habits to fall into, so be vigilant.
1. Eat the wrong thing
You just burned a bunch of calories, so you deserve a treat, right? Well, maybe. But that doesn’t mean you should go pig out on a bunch of garbage. In fact, you should aim to give your body what it needs — not necessarily what you want.
The list of foods to avoid is long, but it definitely includes candy, pastries, fast food — pretty much anything that common sense would tell you to avoid.
Gym newbies, this one’s for you: Don’t be that guy. You know, the guy who’s done working out, but won’t get the hell out of the way.
Once you’ve knocked out your routine, head to the locker room, go cool down, or get a protein shake — just don’t keep moping around, getting in the way, and even worse, sitting on machines or equipment that people are trying to use.
3. Skip the cool-down
We’ve previously written about the importance of your cool down. It doesn’t need to be anything extravagant; just a way to slowly crank the proverbial dial back from 11 and get your heart gradually back down to a resting level. That can mean doing some simple yoga moves, stretching, using a foam roller carefully (more on that in a minute), or even just taking it easy on the treadmill for 10 or 15 minutes. This will help you get ready for the next workout in short order by reducing recovery time.
4. Overdo it with the foam roller
This point rings especially true for all you runners out there. While foam rolling can feel absolutely wonderful, it’s important you don’t overdo it, as being too aggressive may be counterproductive. In fact, Active.com says too much foam rolling can cause muscle and nerve trauma. You don’t have to give it up for good, just be mindful of how you’re using this handy tool.
5. Grab a Gatorade
With so many flavors of Gatorade, Powerade, and all other kinds of sports drinks, developing the habit of having one after your workout is easy to do. Here’s some advice: Go for water instead.
Though such beverages are marketed as being healthy and containing good amounts of body-enriching minerals and whatnot, they’re also loaded with sugar (14 grams in an original 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade) — which means they’re packed with calories. Yes, your body needs salt and vitamins post-workout, but there are better ways to nourish yourself. So avoid these drinks, and just stick to water to rehydrate.
6. Remain sedentary for the rest of the day
It can be tempting to get your lounge on after a hardcore sweat session, but try to resist the urge. “You definitely want to start moving at some point or your body’s going to tighten up,” Rebecca Kennedy, master trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp, told Shape. She suggests “active recovery” and stretching. Even if you have no choice but to go directly back to your desk after a lunchtime workout, just be sure to stay somewhat mobile. Maybe trade your desk chair for an exercise ball, or set a timer to remind yourself to get up and walk around every 45 minutes or so.
7. Hang out in your workout clothes
See the picture above? Gross, right? You may not come off the weight room floor or treadmill looking like this, exactly, but you’re still likely to be covered in sweat. And you’ll need to get those sweaty clothes off before they dry up and get really nasty.
8. Touch your face
Touching your face after leaving the gym is the last thing you want to do. All that gym equipment can be a breeding ground for unwanted germs and bacteria, so keep your hands to yourself following time at the gym. According to Brit + Co., it’s best to wash your hands and wipe your face with a clean towel post workout, especially if you’re not planning on showering for a while.
9. Forget to reflect and recap
Reflecting on your workout may not be something you grew up learning to do. But if you really want to see gains, and track your progress, Health Ambition says it’s essential. Whether you’re using a fitness application, Fitbit or Apple Watch, or even just a plain old pen and paper, take a look at whether you hit your goals. Where did you falter? What do you want to achieve tomorrow, or the next day? These are the questions you should be kicking around in preparation for the next workout.
10. Skimp on quality sleep
Adequate snooze time is essential for any healthy lifestyle. When you don’t get it, you’re just putting yourself at a greater risk for stress, irritation, and even overeating. And according to MSN, getting the right amount of sleep, especially after a day you’ve worked out hard, is key. Your body and mind alike need time to recharge, so think twice before skimping on those quality Zs.
Follow Sam on Twitter @sliceofginger
Additional reporting by Julie Peirano