After Care

I don’t think I’ve ever really discussed the importance of after care when it comes to fitness. It’s such an important factor in recovery, healthy living and weight loss. I think it’s also misunderstood a lot. I am definitely guilty of ignoring the benefits of after care and have paid for it with extra sore muscles and even injury. Here are some things we should all remember after a good, hard workout, myself included.

EAT

If you CAN eat a meal within 30-45 minutes of your activity, do so. Often times that’s not feasible so try to have a snack, some protein and carbs are good. Restoring glucose in your body is what helps prevent sore muscles and speeds recovery.

“Your post-workout meal should be reflective of the intensity and duration of your workout. Healthy post-workout snacks within 30 minutes of training are most important after longer, moderate-to-high intensity workouts. This helps replace glycogen stores, repair muscle tissue, and prepare you for the next training session. Long- or short-duration exercise that is low in intensity doesn’t necessitate a recovery snack/meal. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a carb intake of 0.7g/lb of body weight and 10-20 grams of lean protein post-workout. (from Workout Nirvana)

You can read more from the lovely Suzanne at Workout Nirvana. After her workouts, Suzanne has a banana and a protein shake. She also recommended this article.

When I work out after work, I go home and eat dinner almost immediately. When I bike to and from work, I have a glass of chocolate milk when I get home because it’s usually 1-2 hours before I have dinner. A glass of chocolate milk  does wonders. I mean, chocolate milk is basically the same as that muscle milk stuff but without the creepy chemicals! Chocolate milk is also a good post-activity snack if you have difficulty eating food right after a workout.

“After you work out, your glycogen stores become depleted. Skipping your post-workout snack can cause prolonged soreness as well as premature muscle fatigue. This is caused by incomplete glycogen restoration (LIVESTRONG)”

Some other good snack ideas:

Peanut butter and a banana – protein in the PB and sugar in the banana…perfect. (But remember, bananas should be eaten after a workout, not before. Learn from my mistake!)

Apple and cheese – I like having an apple with an 80 calorie string cheese. The apple has  glycogen-replenishing carbs. And they are tasty and low in calories.

Protein shake – Kind of self-explanatory.

Dried Apricots – I discovered this awesome little trick when I was searching for a snack that would keep me from crashing after intense workouts. I only need 3-4 dried apricots and it gets me through the famished-frenzy until I’m home and can eat real food.

What is your favorite post-workout snack? 

WATER

This is often where I fall short, but I am doing much better. Drinking water will help reduce soreness. Drink, drink, drink! Then drink some more!

FOAM ROLLER

I LOVE my foam roller.  I use it almost every day. This is probably the most important piece of “exercise equipment” that I own! What is a foam roller? The one I have is a super dense foam that is kind of like getting a deep tissue massage. As a runner, I’ve used the foam roller for my IT band too many times to count. It feels and HURTS so good!

It’s a great thing to have if you are a runner or a cyclist, but honestly I’ve used my foam roller more after a heavy weight lifting session. When I wake up the next day and my quads and hamstrings are crying because of squats and lunges from the day before, I go straight for my foam roller. Michael uses it too and I even got my mom into it. I think I even sent her one for her birthday one year. I recommend it to everyone who does any kind of fitness. And trust me, the harder the better. Definitely go for the DENSE foam. It won’t do much if it’s soft. Check out this article for more uses for the foam roller. Seriously, it was the best $15 I ever spent for an exercise item!

ICE

If you have some soreness in your knees, legs, wherever, try an ice pack for 15-20 minutes after the activity to prevent/reduce inflammation. A lot of runners I know do ice baths after long runs. I tried to do that after Hood to Coast and it was too brutal for me. (Anyone have a tip to make ice baths more pleasant??)

Good god, looking at those pictures!! But if you can stand it, do it! I found this article on how to take an ice bath. I’m still too scared to try it.

STRETCH

I learned my lesson with my running injury years ago. Stretching is a very important part of a workout. I neglected it a lot when I was running and I paid for it with my injury. Yoga is a good thing to add to your routine. It would be a good thing to add to my routine, as well. I struggle with this. I try my best but it’s just not something I like to do. Well, to be fair, I like yoga once I’m in the class and doing it and I always feel better afterwards…it’s the motivating myself to go to class I have a hard time with. I have incorporated a lot of the yoga moves into my stretching routine, though.

And don’t forget REST DAYS.

Take Care of Yourself

A few other things I rely on heavily for my aftercare: Biofreeze (I love love love it!) and my compression tights. Michael bought them for me for Christmas a few years ago and I love them so much. It feels so good to wear them after a hard workout. I also have compression socks, which I wear more often than regular socks.

It’s so easy to just go about like normal and assume everything is okay until BAM! Injury! It’s happened to me a few times. I feel great, my body is good, my performance is the best it’s ever been, and then of course, something happens and I have to take a break. Breaks suck. I wish I could be a good patient when I’m injured but it honestly just stresses me out and I get impatient. I need to learn to take care of myself. Even if it’s a hassle to take the extra time to stretch, or foam roll, it’s so worth it. So take care of yourself!

QUESTION: What are your after care tips and tricks you do?

It’s Taper Week!

Warning: “Be aware that tapering may cause the following conditions: weight gain, phantom pains, heavy legs, anxiety, depressed mood, an urge to run extra miles or to run harder, the urge to eat more than you need to and many other conditions you haven’t felt during your regular training.”

Taper week is usually a struggle for me. For one, what am I going to do with all my free time??? Suddenly not having a regimented workout/training schedule means LOTS of free time. Second, I start to have “phantom” pains and I stress out that I’m injured.


When I did my first race, a 5k, I had a forced rest week because I got the flu. For two weeks leading up to my race I was sick as a dog in bed. I wasn’t fully healed, rested or well enough to run that race but I did it anyways and it was a struggle every step of the way.

Shamrock 8k

For my second race, an 8k, I did the proper taper and rested for several days leading up to it. I had a good race. My last race was Hood To Coast. I ran my last run, and PR’ed! about 5 days before the big day. I swam a few times that week before I ran HTC too but that was a relaxing, almost-impossible-to-injury-myself activity.

Hood to Coast

Runner’s World had a good article about Tapering“Remember: During this final week, you can’t under-do. You can only overdo.” Tapering is important because your body needs the rest and time to repair before Race Day. It can Make or Break your race!

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Phantom Pains: it’s totally normal to have new and weird aches and pains. In fact, before every race or event I’ve felt like something new was broken on my body. I was convinced that I was injured and wouldn’t be able to participate. Not true! It’s just nerves–the mind playing tricks on me.
  • Skip the weight training and difficult cardio a week before. The last thing you need before Race Day is a tweaked muscle.
  • Take it easy. That means no gardening, no strenuous activity, DO NOT TRY NEW THINGS! I made the mistake of pulling weeds before the Shamrock Run last year. Oh my god were my hamstrings beaten up! Stupid mistake.
  • Get lots of rest. Sleep when your body needs it.
  • Carb Load. Start eating more carbs but don’t overdo it until the night before when you can really carb load! 🙂
  • As the Big Day approaches, you may become irritable, cranky, nervous, excited…all normal feelings. Take it easy. Meditate, relax, go for walks in the outdoors, anything to keep you positive and upbeat.
  • Buy your sweetie something special for putting up with your cranky butt during Taper Week!

The taper length depends on what you’ve been training for. It can be 7 days to 3 weeks. If your taper is too short you risk being tired on race day. If it’s too long you risk losing some of the fitness you’ve built up. I think the decision lies with the individual person. Only they know their bodies and their training to date.


The Portland Century Bike ride is Sunday, August 21st. Just a short week away. If you are a newish reader, the back story is this:

In May of 2010 Michael and I biked in our first organized ride, Reach The Beach. I was a newbie biker and also training for the Hood to Coast Relay Race. It was a busy year with a lot of training but on race day we successful completed it! For RTB I biked 55 miles and Michael did the 80 mile route. We loved the organized rides and wanted to do more of them.

The Portland Century is a 100 mile bike ride throughout the Portland Metro area. It’s one of the most popular organized rides in Oregon as well. The original plan when we decided to do this ride was to do the full 100 miles. A few months ago the route was changed and those 100 miles were full of insane hills–out of our abilities. We decided to switch to the 70 mile route:

“This route features some of Portland’s best off road paths and routes. You’ll pedal a stretch along the gorgeous Historic Columbia River Highway. You’ll cruise back to the finish line along the Springwater Corridor, passing Jenne Butte, Powell Butte and Johnson Creek along the way. The course is relatively flat and travels along scenic, low traffic roads.” The route is seen here.

My training has been going well. I started commuting to work by bike and eventually biked the whole way from the house.  Michael and I did some long bike rides. My weekly mileage was averaging between 50-65 miles. I feel pretty confident. I’d hoped to get my mileage to 80 for the week before the Century and didn’t, but I got close.


Now it’s Taper Week. This means:

  • No hard/long bike rides this week. I might bike to work Tuesday.
  • Limiting carbs. I think I’ll go back to the Slow-Carb diet thing for a few days. That means soups and salads with protein for lunch and the normal non-carb foods we already eat for breakfast and dinner.
  • No sugar. This will be hard. But I’m going to try and avoid dessert all week. No candy, no chocolate. I will eat fruit though.
  • No alcohol. See above–it’s just carbs and sugar!
  • No weight lifting. The last thing I need is to be sore or pull a muscle.
  • No gardening! This is such a stupid mistake that I’ve made too many times. I do NOT need sore hamstrings before the race!
  • Foam Roll every single day this week.
  • Drink lots of water this week.

The exercise I will be doing is swimming and walking, maybe an easy jog or some yoga. It’s going to be a long week!

QUESTION: How do you handle taper week? What’s the biggest challenge for you?