Here are the gym bag essentials you can’t be without if you want to maximise your post-workout recovery.
When you don’t have a buddy to help push you further into that stretch, having a band stashed in your bag is the next best thing. Resistance bands will help deepen the stretch of larger muscle groups such as legs and back, resulting in increased blood flow to relieve those aching muscles.
2. Foam roller
Foam rolling is a great way to speed up recovery. By using one to massage your muscles (AKA self-myofascial release) you can help relieve soreness, improving circulation and allowing your muscles to quickly return to their normal function.
3. Muscle cream
Having trouble moving after a hard workout? Get your hands on a topical cream like Metsal’s Heat Rub. They’re effective in soothing muscle aches and pains and help you ease back into your routine.
4. Post-workout snack
After any workout, you’ll want to kick-start your recovery with a snack. Ideally, this should contain a ratio of 2:1 carbohydrates to protein in an easily digestible form such as a shake or bar. In order to restore your glycogen levels — the primary fuel your muscles use during exercise — making sure you refuel within 20 minutes of finishing your workout is key to a swift recovery.
5. Compression garments
Whether it be tights, tops, shorts or socks, donning compression gear when you exercise is said to help expel lactic acid build-up, boost circulation and reduce muscle stiffness to aid a faster recovery time. Skin-tight it is!
6. Trigger-point massage ball
This self-massaging tool will be a godsend to your tight and aching muscles. It performs the same purpose as a foam roller but targets more specific areas of the body to help reduce soreness and improve flexibility. It’s like having a mini massage wherever and whenever you need.
7. Chocolate milk
Step aside sports drinks, research proves drinking chocolate milk after a workout is one of the best ways to facilitate fast recovery. It’s the power duo of carbohydrates and protein that play the key role in refuelling tired muscles.
8. Contrast shower
OK, so you won’t find this one hiding in your bag, but if you can manage this after a workout your body will thank you. Take a shower and alternate between hot and cold water settings. By turning it to lukewarm for one to two minutes, then switching to cold and repeating a few times your blood vessels will dilate and constrict, helping flush out lactic acid and toxins in your muscles for optimal recovery.
Stretching post exercise is one of the best things you can do to boost muscle recovery and prevent further injuries. Static (long hold) stretches will help decrease soreness and improve range of motion and flexibility. Unsure of what to do? You can look to fitness apps like Stretch It, Sworkit and Stretch HD for your own personal coach.
10. Water bottle
Hydration might be important before and during a workout, but it’s also vital your recovery. Maintaining adequate hydration promotes glycogen synthesis (a process that replenishes energy stores) and will aid in your long-term muscle health. Skip the sugary drinks you might crave after sweating it out and focus on drinking plenty of water, ensuring your bottle is filled ready to take with you when you leave the gym.