Whether you prefer a workout before or after work, a lunchtime walk, or swimming at weekends – it is what you do before and after exercise – not just the things you choose to do at the gym – that improve fitness.
Exercise is when you put in the physical effort but by understanding what to do during, before and after exercise, you can progress faster and achieve better results.
Let’s take a look at what you should do before and after exercise for optimum results.
Hydration is always important, but particularly before or after exercise. Water fuels muscles and retains energy levels, staying hydrated will also help avoid cramps and improve performance. The NHS recommends drinking 1.2 litres of water a day to avoid dehydration, paying particular attention to periods just before or after exercise.
Tip: Keep fluid levels up by carrying a bottle of water and sip regularly – particularly before or after exercise.
Use food as fuel
Eating the right foods before and after exercise will fuel workouts and provide you with the right nutrients to repair muscles. If you’re unsure what to eat before or after exercise to build muscle, aim for carbohydrates beforehand to provide energy. The best thing to do after a workout is eat protein to kickstart muscle recovery and speed up the muscle-building process. There are many apps such as My Fitness Pal which can help you track exactly how many calories you are consuming and burning. Remember if you eat more calories than your burn you will gain weight, and if you eat less calories than you burn you will lose weight.
Tip: If you workout before or after work, have a nutritious breakfast or snack ready to start the refueling process and to prevent you from reaching for an unhealthy snack when post-workout hunger strikes!
Monitor progress and performance
Tracking your workouts will highlight any improvements or dips in performance while increasing motivation! A fitness tracker like the Kinetik Wellbeing Heart Rate Monitor provides updates before, during, and after exercise on current, maximum and average heart rate, as well as calories burned. This helps you understand when to push harder, and when to reduce the intensity too.
Tip: Compare results with a friend to give accountability and encouragement. Log your progress before or after you exercise to help you stay motivated.
Warm-up and cool down
Conditioning your body before or after exercise is vital for improvement and recovery. Aim for a dynamic warm-up rather than going from stationary to full steam ahead. This will condition your body and help prevent injuries.
One of the best things to do after a workout is a gentle stretch session to prevent muscles from seizing. If you workout before or after work, don’t return immediately to a static position at your desk or in your car. Cool down gently and return your body to its pre-workout state.
Tip: Joe Wicks – The Body Coach has some helpful videos for warming up and cooling down before or after exercise on his YouTube channel.
Get enough rest
Your body needs sleep to help energise and rejuvenate before or after exercise. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, enjoy a few early nights when possible. It is well known that if you are looking to build muscle sleep is one of the most important elements, along with diet and then actual training. If you aren’t doing one of these things then you won’t be getting the maximum results possible.
Tip: To aid restful sleep take time away from screens for at least an hour before bedtime.
Remember; Effective fitness is not just about exercise. It is what you do before or after exercise, and how you care for your body. Choose activities before and after fitness wisely to maximise performance and improve results, while looking after yourself too.