The Most Important Part Of Your Workout? (It's Not What Most People Think!)

Posted in: Exercise
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Susan Ohtake, Certified Personal Trainer

Susan Ohtake, CPT

The most important part of your workout is not always the workout itself. Sure, some types of exercise are more effective than others. But a lot of the time, frustration because of lack of results can be traced back to what you do after your workout is over. Let me explain...

Maybe you've experienced workout programs that encouraged working out as much as possible. But did you see results exercising more? For most people, I'd imagine the answer is no...especially if you're exercising with any sort of intensity.

Recovery is When Results Happen

One of the most common misconceptions about exercise is the idea that what you do during your workout is responsible for your results. The truth is, your workout is just the start!

Recovery time after your workout is over is when your body adapts to the stress you just gave it. Think about results...an increase in firmness, definition, and tone...as adaptations your body makes after you give it stress. In order to see results, you need to give your body time to adapt.

Adaptation or recovery time is different for everyone. Over time, your recovery time will improve as your body learns to adapt to the stress of exercise faster.

Try these techniques to speed recovery so you can see results faster:

#1 - The Ice Bath

Brr....did reading that make you cold? Ice baths may sound like a dreadful thing to some, but it definitely helps in reducing inflammation. Immersing yourself in the cold water will activate a hormone called adiponectin, which helps in muscle recovery. This method is also known to boost immune function and and increase your metabolism. If an ice cold bath sounds like too much, then try a cold shower. It will be less painful, but more convenient.

#2 - Anti-inflammatory Diet

A big part of recovery is alleviating inflammation. Some of the foods that we eat daily promote inflammation, such as legumes, grains, and food items that are high in sugar. You'll want to limit those. Instead, eat more dark leafy vegetables, avocado, eggs, salmon, and garlic. Those items have anti-inflammatory properties.

#3 - Dark Chocolate

You'll probably really like the fact that dark chocolate is on this list. Not only will it satisfy your sweet tooth but it also has magnesium. A lot of people are actually magnesium deficient, which can lead to muscle weakness, cramping, and overall soreness. One way to get your fair share of magnesium is by consuming foods that actually have it, and dark chocolate is on the list! Make sure you get Cacao that's 70% dark chocolate or higher, or you won't reap the same benefits.

#4 - Magnesium Supplements

If you're really not a dark chocolate lover, then consuming supplements will work too. They are available in oral or topical form. Just make sure your source is tested for impurities. I'd suggest getting at least 300 - 800 milligram magnesium supplements. Magnesium helps some people sleep better. I like to take it before bed (although a few friends have reported weird dreams after taking it).

Turn Up Post-Exercise Burn

Short, high intensity workouts can actually send your body into a state of "afterburn" that lasts long after your workout is over!

This process is called "EPOC" or "Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption." It's a fancy way of saying that after a really tough workout, your body needs extra oxygen to get back to the rested state it was at before you started.

When it comes to triggering "afterburn" (EPOC), it's the intensity, NOT duration of exercise that matters. Resistance training is also a proven way to turn up the post-workout burn, helping melt fat away as you recover.

It's All About Recovery

Whether you're looking to burn fat, build strength, or improve performance - taking the time to recover is something you should always strive to do.

You don't want an injury to be the reason you have to slow down. And those firm muscles? They're built during recovery time!

Plus, if you're using short, high intensity workouts, your rest time is actually where most of your calorie burning is taking place thanks to the afterburn effect.

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