One of the best things about exercise is that triumphant feeling that follows the workout. And it’s not just a case of patting yourself on the back for a job well done - your brain releases endorphins that are real happy-makers.
However, in order to keep that feel-good going long after your workout, it’s important to give your body some proper attention to aid its recovery from intense physical activity. From simple stretching and meditation to abhyanga massage and topical products, there are all sorts of ways to care for your body, mind, and soul after a good ol’ sweat session.
Here are our 6 tips for building a happy, healthy post-exercise routine.
1. Feel great - meditate!
One of the easiest and most immediately gratifying post-exercise activities is reconnecting to breath and body after a good workout. Whether you choose to practice a traditional, seated meditation or opt for a moving meditation, this is a great way to rebalance your system after something strenuous.
Even if meditation isn’t your thing, mindfulness in general can go hand-in-hand (or hand-in-foot) with stretching. Just be present, focus on deep belly breathing, and let your body rebalance itself.
2. Steam rooms and saunas
Saunas and steam rooms have been used in many cultures for thousands of years for the purposes of purification, cleansing and healing. This is because temporarily increasing the body’s core temperature produces a response that helps condition the body for future heat stressors and promote homeostasis among primarily regulatory systems. You can read all about this process involving heat shock proteins.
3. Ayurvedic Self-Massage
Abhyanga, part of the concept of ayurveda, is the process of anointing the body with oil as part of a self-massage regimen. Self-massage alone is great as a post-exercise ritual. It can help stimulate blood flow, melting tension from sore muscles - and it feels soooo good!
The practice of abhyanga is rooted in ritual and culture. The Sanskrit work sneha can actually be translated to both the words “oil,” and “love.” And not much sounds better for a post-exercise ritual than caring for your body by covering it with oil and love.
4. Roll, roll, roll your quads...
...and your IT bands, and really any area of muscular discomfort.
Massage rollers have evolved from the days of the simple foam roller, seeming to get more innovative each year. The R8 deep tissue massage roller features a revolutionary design that takes the weird maneuvering out of muscle rolling and easily allows you to target any muscular group that needs a little TLC.
However, if you’re looking for something a little simpler (and more affordable), you could try these Myofascial Release Lacrosse Balls - sold for the low price of $15.99 for the set of two.
5. Get your stretch on
Stretching is probably the most timeless item on this list of post-exercise rituals. And with good reason: stretching after a workout not only leaves your limbs feeling fantastically relaxed, but it also improves flexibility and range of motion and can help prevent injuries. It also increases blood and nutrient flow to the muscles.
While stretching is a fairly familiar concept, there’s actually more to dissect than you might think. There are actually many different types of stretching, including static stretching, dynamic stretching, ballistic stretching, myofascial release, and more! Each stretching variant offers its own benefits for stiff muscles.
Some of the best post-workout stretches are long, static holds, like with restorative yoga poses where you rest in a stretch for anywhere from two to ten minutes at a time.
This form of static stretching works using autogenic inhibition, which allows a muscle to relax after being held in a taut, stretched position for a certain duration of time. This is because something called the golgi tendon organ senses muscle tension and exertion and activates to avoid injury during strain. And boy, when that relaxation reflex is triggered - it feels amazing, like your blood flow is rinsing tension out of the muscles.
If this sounds like something for you, try out one of my favorite free, online yoga classes that targets tension in the hips and lower back. Be aware that a surprising emotional reaction may follow deep hip stretching - and be sure to drink lots of water to hydrate your freshly stretched ligaments!
6. Slather on some Cooling Pain Relief Cream.
Bluebird is excited to introduce its newest topical product: Cooling Pain Relief Cream. This ultra-cooling cream is designed to relieve your temporary aches and pains, making it especially handy for use after exercise when your muscles are feeling a little ouchy. With 3% menthol, you can enjoy a pleasant soothing sensation as well as a nice serving of CBD, aloe, and shea butter to moisturize any dried-out skin.
With its compact packaging and measured pumps, this cream is convenient for stashing in your gym bag, medicine cabinet, or even the cup holder in your car.