You gave it your all. You were left with that muscle-shaking, heavy-breathing, why-can't-I-stop-sweating feeling that follows only the toughest of workouts. You just crushed your first HIIT class. Now that you've conquered those kettlebells and powered through those push-ups, what you do next is just as important as what you did in the gym.
In order to get the most from your workout and speed up recovery time (feeling sore yet?), the steps you take after your workout can seriously impact your results and recovery. Here's a checklist of tips to ensure the most efficient post-workout recovery:
1. When in doubt, stretch it out.
We all know warming up before a workout is vital to avoid injury. Similarly, a good post-workout stretch will aid in muscle recovery and help prevent soreness and stiffness. When you perform contraction after contraction during your HIIT class, your muscles are left in a shortened state. Stretching helps to reset your body to a natural position and prevents stiffening. Static stretches, or those where you hold one position to stretch a specific muscle group, should be held for around 25-30 seconds.
2. Eat your proteins.
There's a reason you often see (and hear) lifters walking around the gym shaking up their protein-packed Blender Bottles. Eating a protein and carbohydrate-heavy meal within an hour after your workout-whether it's food or liquid-will help prevent your body from using its own muscle tissue for energy, meaning you'll recover faster and see better results from your HIIT class.
3. Rest up to recover.
When you're HITing it hard in the gym lifting weights, you are actually causing tiny tears (known as micro-tears) in your muscle fibers. After your workout, your body works to repair your muscles by teaching them to adapt to the stimulus. This process, called hypertrophy, is how muscles grow stronger. As with most repair processes in the body, you do your best work in rest mode. Getting at least six hours of sleep after your HIIT class is key to giving your body the rest it needs to repair and adapt.
4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Hydrating after your sweat sesh is about so much more than just quenching your thirst. Think of it this way: the more you sweat during your workout, the more dehydrated your body becomes. Water alone is usually a sufficient way to replenish fluids, but the more you sweat, the more your body loses electrolytes. If you sweat a lot during your HIIT class, consider a drink with electrolytes to help replenish what you lost-just be wary of overly sugary sports drinks!
5. Consider active recovery.
If you're incredibly sore after your first HIIT class, don't ever hesitate to take the rest you need. Otherwise, active recovery can be hugely beneficial, and can even help ease sore muscles. Active recovery is a low-intensity workout that requires about half the effort of your standard workout. If your muscles are especially stiff, consider a barre or yoga class to stretch out those muscles causing discomfort.