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Post-Workout Pitfalls

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Motivate yourself to avoid these nine tempting fitness-crushing habits. 

By Rebecca L. Bennett

So, you’ve mustered up the willpower to hit the gym and conquer a blood-pumping workout. Great job! However, it’s important to remember exercise itself is only half the journey to achieving your personal health- and-fitness goals. Your post-workout habits also play a pivotal role in helping or hindering your progress.

If you want your hard work and discipline to truly pay off, avoid these nine common post-workout mistakes.

Mistake No. 1: Not cooling down

Exercise elevates your heart rate and blood pressure, so it’s smart to incorporate a few minutes of cool-down time into your workout routine. Walking on a treadmill allows your vitals to gradually return back to their normal levels, lowering your risk of blood clots and injuries.

Mistake No. 2: Skipping your stretches

It’s important to incorporate stretching into your post-exercise regimen. Why? Because any workout, no matter how rigorous, has the potential to strain and lightly damage your muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons. Stretching promotes proactive healing by increasing blood flow to these areas while also preventing future injuries by improving exibility. It could also help ease next-day soreness.

Mistake No. 3: Waiting to wash up

After a workout, your instinct might be to chill out for a while and wash up when you’re feeling a little less tired. However, immediately showering and changing is actually the best post-workout practice. You see, sweat—even dried sweat—encourages bacterial growth, increasing your risk of developing rashes, acne, infections and other miscellaneous undesirables. Plus, let’s face it, you probably smell.

Mistake No. 4: Rehydrating poorly or not at all

You sweat out a good portion of your body’s water supply when you exercise, so rehydration should be prioritized after your daily workout. Drinking plenty of water and avoiding sugary sports drinks—which, according to Harvard Health, actually contain more sugar than beneficial electrolytes—will help your body recover.

Mistake No. 5: Drinking alcohol too soon

Since exercise raises your blood pressure, combining alcohol and exercise increases your risk for blood clots and dehydration while additionally lowering your endurance and ability to build muscle. Experts recommend waiting at least half an hour after your vitals return to their normal resting levels before indulging in that celebratory cocktail.

Mistake No. 6: Eating poorly or not at all

If one of your tness goals is to lose weight, it might be tempting to skip eating a meal after working out. However, according to a 2015 study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, your body needs nourishment to recover and make itself ready for the next time you head to the gym. If not a full meal, try to eat at least a wholesome snack containing minimal sugar within 30 minutes post-workout, and make healthy choices a rule of thumb when it comes to mealtime.

Mistake No. 7: Vegetating the rest of the day

Getting in a great morning workout doesn’t mean it’s healthy to sit idly in your office chair for the remainder of the day or to vegetate on your couch for the rest of the evening. Make it your goal to move as much as possible throughout the day. Ask your employer for a standing desk or sit on an exercise ball for a few hours every day at work, or simply start incorporating a walk into your lunch break. At home, turn TV time into a stretch session and take your dog on a long night walk.

Mistake No. 8: Not getting enough sleep

According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, sleep between workouts is a non-negotiable step in your body’s recovery process. Not getting a solid seven to nine hours, even for just one night, can raise your odds of sustaining an injury. And consistent lack of sleep can have signi cant effects on your overall workout performance—a strong reason to make sure you’re counting enough sheep when your head hits the pillow.

Mistake No. 9: Being too hard on yourself

As tempting as it can be, don’t obsess about the number on the scale. Improving your physical health and tness is an amazing goal to pursue, but be sure to be kind to yourself too. Feeling positive about who you are will help you remain disciplined before, during and after workouts. As the saying goes, it takes the same amount of energy to be negative as it does to be positive.

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