Post Workout Mistakes

Exercise and health goals are some of the toughest things someone can achieve or work towards. It takes dedication, discipline, motivation and forward planning. One part of this process that is often overlooked is what you do AFTER you train. Outlined below are 3 common mistakes people make when they have finished a workout.

1. Cool Down and Relax

While warming up and cooling down have been a staple of peoples exercise regimes for decades, its the cool down that often gets neglected. After a difficult, heavy or intense training session your bodies nervous system is in overdrive. The systems we want to focus on are the Sympathetic and the Parasympathetic.

The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. It often aids our workouts by increasing heart rate, blood pressure and releases a hormone called Cortisol. This system is designed to be used solely in “fight or flight” situations, but is often activated more, due to high levels of stress, lack of sleep and inadequate nutrition. Long term SNS activation can lead to Heart Disease, Anxiety, Weight Gain and a decrease in Bone Mass. 

The Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is responsible for the “rest and digest” response and aids recovery and immune function.

When you have finished a workout, your SNS is usually working at a high level. Leaving the gym straight away and neglecting your cool down allows this activation to increase for longer, meaning your body stays in this “Stress Response” period for longer than needed.

By spending 10 minutes after your workout foam rolling, stretching or just relaxing and doing some controlled breathing, you will begin activating your PNS, which will lower blood pressure, heart rate and increase your immune system function. This will lead to better results in the gym and an overall decrease in stress perception.

2. Sleep is Essential to Recovery

You have probably all heard this before, but sleep is arguably the most important factor in adequate recovery and reaching your fitness goals. Sleep deprivation has been linked with obesity, with one study finding that sleep deprivation increased the risk of obesity by 55% (1). Poor sleep is also linked to an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes (2) and strongly correlated with Depression (3). In terms of health and fitness goals, lack of sleep can be associated with decreased muscle mass and fat gain (due to chronic activation of our old friend the SNS). You all probably know why sleep is important so here are a few tips to aid those precious z’s.

  • No electronics for 30 mins. Melatonin (“Sleep Hormone”) gets released when it gets dark or light decreases. It aids sleep by reducing heat, arousal and brain activity, as well as inhibiting Cortisol release. The light emitted from televisions, computer screens and phones inhibit Melatonin release, meaning the processes that Melatonin creates are less effective and take longer to begin. “But iphones now have nightshade mode” you may say but while this does decrease the intensity of the light produced by phones, whatever you’re doing on your phone will most likely be increasing your brain activity, which will limit your ability to get to sleep.
  • Breathing techniques. Breathing techniques can be beneficial to aid sleep by getting you to focus on something other than the hundreds of things going through your mind at bedtime. By simply paying attention to your breaths, or trying to control them by counting (4s inhale, 2s hold, 4s exhale for example) you can shift attention away from stressful thoughts.
  • Stretching or Foam Rolling. While I wont get into the specific effects of stretching and foam rolling (that’s for another day). I will recommend that you spend some time before bed participating in these activities. The main reason for this is the PNS activation we discussed earlier. Combining stretching with breathing techniques outlined above can help get your body into a relaxed state before bedtime. The trick here is to ensure that you are not stretching or rolling to pain, as this will just increase SNS activity.

3. Weights, Reps, Sets and Rest Should All Be Recorded.

While it may seem like common sense, you would be surprised by the amount of times I have seen or heard of someone not recording their specific workout parameters. By writing down sets, reps, weights and more importantly how the exercise FELT, you allow yourself to keep track of your progress, regress if needed or change your program completely if you are not getting results. Progression is the most important part of an exercise program, and writing down specifics will allow you to progress properly and achieve your goals.

The longevity team record all of your data for all exercises for the lifetime of our clients. You can access this information at any time. Have access to this highly accurate historical data allows you to make clear, careful strategic decisions to improve your health and fitness.

If you are looking to start personal training and exercise physiology in Sydney, we are more than eager here at Longevity PT to get you started! Our team of personal trainers and exercise physiologists is ready to give you the best tailored exercise program to achieve your very personal goals. Partnered with other quality health professionals in Sydney suburbs such as Edgecliff, Double Bay and Lindfield we are looking forward to giving you the best shot at achieving your health goals, whether it’s weight loss, energy or muscle training. Don’t hesitate, book in today!

By James Davis

James is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist based at our Lindfield location: Hive Active. 

James is currently offering a 30min strategy session for all new clients. This strategy session will assess your current health and fitness levels and allow you to achieve more with less effort. The 30min strategy session is only $49 with Private Health Rebates available. Email to claim this offer and we will contact you to book your session.

(1). Cappuccio, F, Taggart F, Kandala N-B, Currie A, Peile E, Stranges S and Miller M (2008). Meta-Analysis of Short Sleep Duration and Obesity in Children and Adults. Sleep, 31(5):619-626

(2). Gottlieb DJ1Punjabi NMNewman ABResnick HERedline SBaldwin CMNieto FJ (2005). Association of sleep time with diabetes mellitus and impaired glucose tolerance. Arch Intern Med, 165 (8): 863-7

(3). Tsuno N, Besset A, Ritchie K. (2005) Sleep and Depression. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 66 (10): 1254-69

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