Your workout may be done and dusted for the day, but if you really want to see results, what you do afterwards is as important as the session itself.
Whether you simply want to keep in shape or you’re working towards a specific goal, exercising takes effort, so don’t sabotage your hard work with silly mistakes. Check out these common pitfalls and solutions to get the most out of every session.
Pitfall 1: You don’t think ahead
You diarise dinner with your man and cocktails with your besties, but what about that all-important gym sesh? The last thing on your mind after finishing one sweat session might be pencilling in the next, but if you don’t stick to a schedule it’s easier to skip training or prioritise other plans. ‘If you book in your session while you’re high on the endorphins of your last workout, you’ll make the positive mental connection when you’re thinking about the next one,’ says Bodyism trainer Nathalie Schyllert.
Pitfall 2: You guzzle back a sports drink
Staying hydrated during and after a workout is a no-brainer, but you don’t want to be chugging back sports drinks unless you’re working out intensely (i.e. training for over an hour). Believe it or not, a sports drink contains almost as many calories as a chocolate bar, with minimal gain. ‘Sugars such as sucrose and fructose are the main ingredients in most sports drinks. While they can be helpful to replenish electrolytes, they are often tested on elite athletes so, for you or I, we could end up just drinking 500ml of sugar,’ explains Nathalie. Rehydrate with naturally sweet coconut water instead.
Pitfall 3: You stay in the same clothes
You wouldn’t stay in a soaking wet swimsuit after a session in the pool, so why stay in your gym gear after a workout? Sweaty, damp clothes are a breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to nasty infections. ‘When we work out, we create body heat and moisture through sweat in those places where bacteria loves to hang out. While exercising, the body naturally sweats out water, but it also expels chemical compounds that eventually break down into bacteria (which make your clothes smell),’ explains Nathalie. No time to shower? Take some sweat-proofing precautions instead. Ditch stinky cotton and opt for sweat-wicking kit that traps moisture to keep you cool and dry. And don’t forget to stash a packet of wet wipes and some face wipes in your gym bag for a quick post-training wipe down if you can’t rinse off.
Pitfall 4: You skimp on snacks
Eating after a workout is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue, helping to ensure you reap the rewards of all your hard work. ‘Your metabolism peaks about 30-60 minutes after exercise; this is the best time to fuel the body as you are burning the most calories at this time,’ says Nathalie. Aim for a combo of carbs and protein to boost energy levels – a protein shake made with a scoop of whey protein, water and a banana will replenish energy levels nicely.
Pitfall 5: You skip the steam room
Just as a stretching session makes up part of a good cooldown, so too should a quick stint in the sauna and steam room. Hitting the heat after an intense workout provides relief for sore muscles and helps to effectively flush toxins from your body. To avoid dehydration, limit your sweat sesh to no more than 10-15 minutes and sip around a litre of water after.
Pitfall 6: You don’t hit the massage table
It might seem like an indulgence, but a massage is much more than a pamper sesh. Booking in for a regular sports massage after hardcore sessions can stave off post-muscle soreness and even improve future performance. ‘A sports massage will help to reduce muscle soreness after a workout by gradually pushing the lactic acid and other unwanted substances out of the muscles,’ explains Nathalie.
Pitfall 7: You’re a night owl
Slumber time and exercise go hand in hand; in fact, exercise is good for sleep. A study by Oregon State University found that getting at least 150 minutes of exercise a week positively impacts sleep quality. However, research also shows that not getting enough snoozing time after a fitness session can impair recovery from exercise, so try to get an early night after a workout. Being sleep deprived messes with hormones, increasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol and reducing muscle protein synthesis. It also causes a drop in the production of the growth hormone, which promotes fat loss and minimises fat storage in your body. So make sure you get your zzzzs!
Pitfall 8: You can’t say no to treats
Struggling to cut out the sweet stuff? You may have burned 300 calories in a 45-minute spin class or clocked up 10K pounding the pavements, but too much indulgence post-workout will derail all your hard work. Reward yourself with non-food related treats like a mani-pedi or a new piece of gym kit, and if you can’t seem to keep your sweet tooth in check, try eyeing up some slightly more waistline-friendly treats over your usual naughty nibbles. A pot of natural yoghurt with fresh fruit and a spoonful of honey, a few strawberries dipped in dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids) or oat pancakes drizzled in maple syrup will fit the bill.
Pitfall 9: You weigh yourself too often
Keeping an eye on the scales is important if shifting the pounds is your main goal, but weighing yourself too regularly can be counterproductive and leave you feeling demotivated if you aren’t seeing constant results. Since healthy weight loss is a slow, steady journey you’re not likely to see a noticeable difference in the number on the scales after a single training session. ‘It’s best to find a time when you can weigh yourself at the same time once a week – not immediately after exercise or eating,’ says Nathalie.