Don’t undo all your hard work by committing these four crimes against your body.
You recover all wrong
If you’ve just spent the last two hours thrashing yourself in the gym, you can spare 10 minutes to let your body cool down and allow your heart to return to its normal rate — gentle aerobic exercise like walking on a treadmill is the ideal first step towards recovery, while static stretching soothes that next-day muscle soreness and helps you return to the gym sooner. Although turning into a couch potato for the rest of the day isn’t doing you any favours (more below), it’s also essential to avoid anything too strenuous — more exercise straight after a serious workout, or even physical chores around the house that place a strain on your tired rig, enormously increases the risk of injury. Oh, and don’t skimp on sleep — a solid 7-8 hours is when your body seriously starts to heal and replenish itself.
You skip the shower
The moment your heart rate’s back to normal, jump into a cool shower to start your muscle repair, then change into nice dry clothes. Bacteria thrive in warm, most conditions — i.e. precisely the environment your sweaty gym clothes provide them — meaning that hanging around in the T-shirt, shorts, undies, and socks you’ve just worn for your workout is a stinky one-way ticket to jock itch, acne, and unsightly rashes, which are all just as unattractive as they sound.
You get lazy
You feel like you’ve earned a movie marathon with a cheeky block of chocolate and a bag of chips after that bumper training session, but channelling Homer Simpson in the wake of a workout can undo all those gains you just made in the gym. Light activity — like walking the dog, or gentle household chores — keep the blood flowing and aid recovery, and as far as nutrition is concerned, it’s crucial to refuel quickly with the right food to help your muscles repair themselves and your body replenish the energy it’s just burned. Avoid processed foods like the plague — you want protein for your muscles and carbs for energy, so tuck into a chicken salad sandwich on wholegrain bread or snack on nuts and yogurt as soon as you’re finished in the gym to get the recovery process rolling.
You drink alcohol
A hard-earned thirst needs a big cold beer . . . if you want to wake up the next morning with a splitting headache from dehydration and muscles that ache like you’ve just run a marathon. Knock back a few pints of water straight after a workout rather than cracking open a beer, which only worsens your dehydration and delays muscle repair. Your team-mates might not thank you for refusing a post-game can in a victorious dressing room, but your body certainly will — save any alcohol for after you’ve replenished your fluids with plenty of water.