There are so many ways to keep fit and millions of us take part in a sport we love on a daily or weekly basis, either professionally or as a hobby.  When you are training or taking part in an event, how you prepare and what you do to recover, will play a big role in the performance level you can reach and maintain.  Below, we take a look at three ways to prepare and recover from a training session.

3 tips to preparing for a workout:

1. Warm up and stretch:
Before you get stuck into any sustained workout or training session, it is important that you do a short warm up and stretch.  Don’t just go straight into a static stretch as this can often do you more harm than good.  It’s important to get your body and muscles warmed up and the best way to do this is by warming up on the move.  A quick walk, short run or even some quick, on the spot exercises that get your limbs moving.  Once you have done a short warm up and your heart rate is going, do some stretching, and focus on the areas you will be using the most during your workout.  The last thing you want to do is get injured or pull a muscle 5 minutes into your workout.  This is often done due to a poor warm up routine. 

If you play a sport like football or rugby, you may want to kick and throw the ball about lightly in your warm up to increase your heart rate and get the blood flowing to your muscles.  If you are preparing for a match or an event, it is advised to have a more sustained, intense workout to prepare your body for a more competitive workout in your match environment. 

2. Eat the right food at the right time:
When you’re getting ready for a workout, it’s important to ensure you are fuelling your body with the right food and eating at an appropriate time to provide the energy that is needed during your workout.  Your body needs energy during a workout and the best way to get this is by eating foods that contain quality carbohydrates and are full of protein power.  Fresh fruit and yoghurts or some nuts, make a great snack if you’re working out.  If you are preparing for a match or long run, you may want to provide your body with an adequate supply of carbohydrates so they can slowly release the energy your body needs during the workout.  Pasta, cereal and rice are all great options here.  Add some vegetables or a lean meat to add some proteins which will help your muscles during your workout. 

If you are eating a large meal before a workout, you need to give it time to properly digest, so try to eat 2 – 3 hours before your workout.  Likewise, if you are taking a small snack before a session, try to eat this about 45 minutes – 1 hour before you work out as you don’t want to feel full when training.  It’s also important to avoid fatty, greasy foods before your workout and don’t consume too many energy foods or foods high in sugar, as they will give you a quick spike of energy followed by a sustained lull.  Energy drinks and sweets like jelly babies are a great choice midway through your workout for a quick burst of sugar and energy for the remainder of your workout.

3. What you drink:
The third tip on our list of preparing for your workout is what you drink.  It is important that your body is hydrated before and during a workout.  Your muscles need to be hydrated to perform at their optimum level and dehydration can really impact on your performance, leaving you feeling fatigued and sometimes leading to injuries and cramps.  If you are training, it’s important to ensure you drink plenty of water during the day and also during your workout.  Try to get water onboard every 15 – 20 minutes during a training session.  Smoothies are continuing to grow in popularity and they are a great way to provide your body with protein and carbohydrates needed for a workout. 

3 tips to recovering from a workout:

1. Don’t forget to cool down:
While a pre training warm up is important, it’s also vital not to forget your cool down.  It can often be too easy after you finish a training session, match or run to simply hit the shower and get changed.  This is one of the worst things you can do to your body, and your muscles.  A cool down is important as it helps your heart rate return to normal and allows you to start to maintain a healthy level of breathing.  A cool down reduces the build up of lactic acid in your muscles, reducing the risk of sore muscles and cramp, later in the day.  This is particularly important if you work out later in the day as you won’t want to be going to bed with sore limbs.  A cool down is not an intense workout and can just be a light jog or cycle, depending on what your workout was.  It can even be a short walk to help your body recover from your training session.  The cool down portion of a workout allows blood to circulate through your body, providing nutrients and oxygen to your muscles and cells. 

2. Eating after a workout:
It is important to eat within an hour of any workout (preferably within 30 minutes).  This is because your body needs the food to fuel the repair of muscle tissues that were damaged during your workout.  It also needs to replenish your sugar and energy levels, particularly your glycogen stores which become depleted during a workout.  Protein and carbohydrates are two important things for your body after a workout and foods like eggs, bananas, salmon and sweet potatoes, all a good choice of food after a workout.  A handful of nuts and seeds mixed into natural yoghurt is also a great way to fuel your body with what it needs after a workout.  Once again, avoid greasy, high fat foods after your workout.

3. Hydrate your body after a workout:
Our final tip for recovering from a workout is to rehydrate your body as quickly as you can.  While water is something we should all try to take on a regular basis during the day, when it comes to recovering from a workout, one of the best drinks you can take to hydrate your body is low-fat milk.  Another drink to consider taking after a workout is a glass of orange juice.  Orange juice is packed full of vitamin C and potassium and these can help your body restore its fuel levels.  It’s important to replace the fluid lost (through sweat) during a workout, and it’s recommended for every pound lost during a workout that you drink 16 – 20 ounces of water (2 – 3 glasses).  Maintaining hydration levels is crucial before, during and after your workout, so be sure that you are getting the right amount of fluid into your body before and after your workout.  Protein shakes are a popular drink for after a workout and they can also be a filling snack to take in the 10 – 15 minutes after a workout, helping you get the muscle repair process started immediately.

How do you prepare before and after a training session or big match?  Do you regularly take water onboard during a training session?  Share your own workout tips with us by commenting below or sharing your tips with us on Facebook and Twitter.  We will share the best tips with the Linwoods community.