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The Gross Post-Workout Habits We’re All Guilty of, and How to Break Them

It’s Friday evening and you just got home, legs shaky after Barre. You don’t bother changing your clothes, order takeout, grab a much-needed glass of wine and plop yourself in front of the TV before you get ready to go out later. We’ve all been there. But after you get home from a sweat sesh, the last thing you want to do is reverse all the work you just put in. So we talked to Shannon Duffy, Athletic Trainer at Parry Physical Therapy and Ruth LoRegio, Wellness Director at Clemens Food Group, both located in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, about how to break the post-workout habits we’re all guilty of.

Not resting or stretching

“This doesn’t mean you can go home and slug out and do nothing, but you do have to take the adequate time to rest, not just rush into your day,” says Duffy. This is especially important for people who go to the gym before work. She says taking an hour to decompress post-workout is key, but if you only have a few minutes (like, well, all of us), make them count. “If you’re not taking the time to decompress mentally, it’s going to affect your body. It’s all connected.” Try guided meditation with an app like Headspace or finish up your workout with a quick sun salutation. And don’t skip the stretching! “Stretching allows the muscles to be at their optimal length, and when they’re at their optimal length, they’re able to repair themselves.” says LoRegio. You can pair stretching and meditation together for an optimal cool-down that saves time.

Not washing off or changing out of our gym clothes

“Your gym clothes harbor a lot of bacteria. You should only wear your gym outfit once per workout, especially during cold and flu season.” says LoRegio. If you don’t shower or change your clothes, it can lead to athlete’s foot and other fungus. “I’ve seen ringworm, I’ve seen all sorts of rashes that you don’t want, especially being a woman.” Duffy adds. She advises bringing wipes and a change of clothing if you don’t have access to a shower. As far as clothing goes, always buy activewear made from wicking material, rather than cotton, which tends to hold bacteria in.

Not eating carbs

We know that not all carbs are created equal. But LoRegio says that complex carbs after a workout are actually more important than protein. “Carbs are fast-acting. They replace your glycogen levels, they restore energy, and they bump up your insulin levels. So, they’ll help the restoration of the muscle protein, which is what your body needs after a workout.” See? Proven advice that some carbs are good for you. “It’s important to get a good fuel source after you work out, so, complex carbs along with some protein is perfect.” says Duffy. Both women recommend packing food ahead of time, so you don’t even have time to think about pulling into the fast food joint down the street. One of Duffy’s favorites is hummus with pretzels.

Drinking alcohol

It’s hard to pass up mimosas after SoulCycle on Saturday morning, but Duffy says alcohol is a no-no for at least an hour after you sweat. “During your workout, your body sweats out fluids. So you’re already needing to rehydrate from your workout, and then you’re going to add alcohol, a natural diuretic, into the picture.” All of this adds up to dehydration and yes, a serious hangover the next morning. “The liver wants to work out the alcohol first,” Duffy adds. “So if you’re eating, your body isn’t focusing on the nutrients that you’re eating. Instead, it’s focusing on your martini, so your healthy snack is not going to make the impact you want.” Bottom line? Make sure to pair your post-workout snack with ample water before you start sipping on cocktails.

 

Remember: “Having a well-balanced healthy lifestyle with adequate hydration, proper sleep, and proper nutrition will take you really far.” says LoRegio. That’s something we can get behind.

Temple University, 2019. Magazine journalist and editor, fitness instructor, health and wellness enthusiast. Proponent of lists, Jesus, and the Oxford comma. Will do anything for an iced oatmilk latte. Follow my journey: Twitter + Instagram: @sarah_madaus
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