Muscle relaxation is a very important component when it comes to working out. The muscles have to be stimulated to grow, but they also need rest to repair themselves. So, the next time you feel tension in your muscles after a workout, know that you’re not done until you allow them to relax.
When exercising, you create micro tears in your muscles, which will start to break down. The time right after any strength or cardio training is crucial to overall recovery, strength building, and muscle and tissue repair. So, in order to maximize your training efforts and get the best results, there are some key things you should do after each workout to cool down and relax.
Sadly, stretching is still an underrated part of people’s workout routine, even though it’s crucial for decreasing muscle stiffness and promoting recovery. After a training session, the muscles are warmed up, thus more elastic. At that point, you will notice the most benefits in regard to your flexibility. Stretching has been shown to decrease soreness in calves, quads, and hamstrings the day after exercising, it accelerates the healing process, and maintains a healthy circulation of blood through the key body areas. Stretch each major muscle group with a few reps that will take about 10 minutes in total. If you want to do only one type of full-body stretching exercise, we suggest you do a hamstring towel stretch – lie down on your back, raise your left leg, and loop a towel around your foot. Bring your leg toward your chest by pulling the ends of the towel, and feel the stretch in your hamstring. Repeat with the other leg.
This is best performed right before bed and during the stretching or cooling down part of your workout. Focus on your breathing and control it by taking slow and deep breaths on a 4:4 second count. Feel your muscles growing heavier, and focus on relaxing one muscle group at a time. Proper breathing techniques will help you focus your energy on muscle relaxation and raise your mind-body awareness.
Even though a good night’s sleep is an obvious way to relax and recharge, people still fail to give themselves a 7-hour sleep due to their daily obligations and tight schedules. However, sleep is important for both physical and mental functioning. By skipping sleep or not sleeping enough, you will increase stress levels in your body and reduce your rate of recovery, which will make your muscles tense. Seven hours of sleep per night is a recommended minimum (athletes need at least nine hours), and if your schedule doesn’t allow it – supplement it with power naps during the day.
Replenishing your body’s water supplies after an intense workout is absolutely necessary. This will help you increase your body’s flexibility and strength as well as decrease muscle soreness. If you don’t know how much water you need after a workout, you can easily figure it out: weigh yourself before and after a gym session. The amount of weight lost is water weight, and you should drink that weight in water with additional 25-50% to make up for what you’ll lose in urine.
A good, thorough massage after a hard workout can speed up your recovery and reduce muscle damage and swelling. Massages are incredible for breaking up the adhesions and knots, while anything you can do to make sure all your muscles are still aligned is beneficial. Instead of getting a full-body massage (if you can’t afford it), get a foam roller and roll it along your neck and back by using your body weight. Make sure that the pressure isn’t too heavy or too deep, because it could damage your already vulnerable muscles.
6. Alternative ways to relax
If you’re living in a state where marijuana use is decriminalized, you can use it as an aid to your fitness endeavors. Many athletes (especially runners) have admitted to using certain amounts of the plant for improving their athletic performance, claiming how weed relaxes them and allows them to go into a meditative state. As for the U.S., marijuana has been decriminalized in several states, such as California, Alaska, Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Nevada (while Chile, for example, has even made the cultivation legal in 2014). So, if you’re a resident of Nevada, you can find and purchase medical marijuana in Las Vegas, or other extractions such as cannabis oil for example.
It is essential not to put further stress on your muscles after a workout, but rather to relax them. Your body needs time to rest and recover, and it’s important to get in the habit of relaxing after working out, just as it’s important to work out regularly. These relaxation techniques will ensure you feel best after every workout.
Luke is a fitness and health blogger at Ripped.me and a great fan of the gym and a healthy diet. He follows the trends in fitness, gym and healthy life and loves to share his knowledge through useful and informative articles.