This is a guest post written by fitness and exercise author, Sheila Olson. Find more of her articles at fitsheila.com
Reaching your fitness goals takes a lot of hard work, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that it also takes relaxation. The body thrives on balance. When you put as much care and attention to things like your post-workout recovery and getting a great night’s sleep, you will reach those milestones that much quicker. Use the following ideas to balance your current fitness routine with self-care that releases tension and supports your overall fitness goals.
Get a Great Night’s Sleep
If you’re exercising more lately, you’re already doing yourself a great service in the name of improving your sleep quality. Regular exercise makes it easier to fall asleep and enables you to sleep deeper every night. To improve your sleep further, create a relaxing bedtime regimen that signals to your body that it’s time to shift its circadian rhythm and prepare for rest. If you live in a noisy urban area, block out noise pollution with noise-canceling curtains when you begin getting ready for bed. Try and aromatherapy candle or essential oil diffuser to fill your room with a scent for stress relief. Once you tuck into your comfortable and clean linens, read a book until you begin to feel sleepy and you’re ready to drift off.
Always Do a Warm-Up
When you finally make it to the gym, it’s easy to skip the whole warmup routine and get straight to work. However, pre-habilitation is essential for reaching your fitness goals. First of all, effective warm-ups can help prevent injuries that would otherwise sideline you from your progress. A bit of pre-habilitation before you get into the heavy stuff also gives you the chance to mentally prepare for exercising, which leads to a more effective workout overall.
To properly warm-up and avoid injury:
- Do two to three minutes of a light cardio exercise you do in-place; for example, using your jump rope or doing jumping jacks.
- Loosen up your hips, butt, and legs with exercises like bodyweight squats, lunges, hip extensions, hip rotations, and leg swings.
- Align your spine and warm up your core muscles with some floor work; for example, push-ups, spider-man steps, and planks.
Stretch after Exercising
Stretching after you’re finished working out is an essential part of recovery. After putting your muscles through the wringer, stretching helps return them to full function. Stretching improves — or, at least, maintains — your full range of motion, re-aligns bones and joints, and strengthens your connective tissues. When you stretch, you’re less likely to feel the pains of your workout the next day, so you won’t be tempted to skip and derail your progress.
The best post-workout stretches to include in your routine:
- Forward bend to stretch hamstrings
- Quad stretches
- Runner’s lunge for hamstrings and calves
- Shoulder stretch for back and shoulders
- Chest stretches for pectoral muscles
- Heel drop for ankles and foot joints
- Upward dog for back and arms
- Cat-Cow for core and spine
Do each move four times for 20 to 30 second each time.
Make Time for Fun
Working hard to reach your goals is great, but if you find yourself canceling hangouts with friends in favor of hitting the gym, remember that it’s okay to take a day off. Having fun and being around the people you love is important for your physical and mental health. If spending time with friends means compromising some lifestyle adjustments, make your own hangout opportunities by inviting them to do a healthy activity such as hiking together.
If you want to reach your fitness goals, you have to remember to balance your hard work with recovery and relaxation. Sleep is a crucial part of fitness, so make your nights more restful by adjusting your bedroom to be more conducive to sleep. Always warm-up before your workouts to prevent injury, and stretch afterward to improve recovery. Finally, don’t forget to have fun. Working hard to reach your goals is great, but alienating yourself from family and friends can have a negative impact on both your physical and mental health.