Did you know your workout doesn't end after your last rep? You push your body through 30 or 60 minutes of exercise, and although you think you're finished, your body is just getting started. When you work out, especially with strength training, you cause micro tears to your muscles, then your body spends hours repairing those tears and making you stronger. It sounds really awful, but it's perfectly normal and the way your body was designed. Even after cardio workouts, your heart rate needs to reset and your energy levels need to refuel. It's extremely important to make sure you take care of your body immediately following a workout so you can keep up your routine and intensity for the next one.
Take a selfie. Totally kidding, but do it quickly if you must and move on to the real recovery!
Cool it and stretch it. Static stretching for the muscles post-workout is like the icing on top: You can't skip it. No matter what your workout consisted of, let your heart rate come down and dive into some stretches. Hold them for about 15 seconds to 2 minutes, focusing on the muscle groups you worked hardest or those that give you trouble. Try to spend 10 to 15 minutes here, using a foam roller if you'd like. This helps elongate the muscle fibers and bring blood flow back to the area to speed up the repairs.
2. Refill your water bottle. Make sure that thing is filled to the brim before you leave the gym. If you're working out at home or at the track, refill it or pack an extra bottle. Hydrating is your body's favorite thing to do (other than sleep, right?), so give it the H2O goodness it craves. A study out of Brazil's Federal University of Juiz de Fora showed drinking water actually helps your heart rate drop to normal levels following activity. You'll need a lot more than you think: try drinking 150 percent of the water weight you just sweated out all over the treadmill. You'll replenish and add more to help your body stay on track. (via Prevention) Click here to make it easier to get your fill!
3. Grab a protein shake. Your muscles need protein. They have to have those amino acids to start the recovery process (muscle protein synthesis, MPS), and quickly! If you don't get the protein into your body about 30 minutes post workout, the protein you ingest will become more and more negligible. If you miss the 30-minute window, repeat your workout. Just kidding! Don't do that. Instead, grab some protein-filled snacks and take the shake before you go to bed. Click here for some protein-based snack recipes or stop by this page to check out the best tasting powders out there.
4. Clean it up, girl! Hop in the shower and clean up before the sweat dries into a crust over your skin. Other than avoiding body odor, showering after a workout helps to keep the pores open so your body can release heat to naturally cool, and then the pores will close on their own. You can also turn the handle to stand under cool water for the last few moments of your shower to help the pores close (it's supposed to be good for your hair, too!). You also want to refresh your womanhood. The vagina is a very sensitive place, so keep the cleaning simple.
>> Read more: Workout Skivvies: Should You Go Commando?