There’s nothing like pushing yourself to your physical limits and leaving it all on the field, so to speak, when you exercise. Not only does it make you feel like you accomplished something, but it also gets you one step closer to meeting your fitness goals, whether you’re shooting for 20-inch biceps, you want to bench press your own body weight, or you’re training for a marathon, just for example.
A good workout can boost endorphins, making you feel energized and amazing throughout the day, and it can also help you to sleep better at night. Unfortunately, it might have just the opposite effect, making you feel fatigued but amped up at the same time. If this is the case, you might be looking for a few good ways to recover and relax after an intense workout.
Here are just a few strategies that might help.
Schedule Training to Maximize Relaxation
Stressing your muscles can leave your whole body sore and aching, and in some cases you might even experience muscle twitching (so annoying!). But you may also have to contend with your mind going a mile a minute and a glut of energy that makes you want to get stuff done. Either way you could have a difficult time relaxing.
If you exercise in the evenings this could make it hard to get a full night of rest. However, it’s not like you’re dealing with rocket science here. The body reacts to extreme physical activity in predictable ways and it’s actually not that hard to address any issues you have in order to cue your body to relax.
The best option, if you can swing it, is to work out in the morning before you head to the office. The reason for this is twofold.
- First and foremost, it gives you the energy you need to start your day off right. And by the time you get home and want to relax you’ll have burned off a lot of the excess adrenaline and endorphins, leaving you pleasantly tired and ready for rest.
- In addition, you can eat a healthy and filling breakfast following your workout. This will help you to sustain your energy level throughout the workday, but it will also force your body to divert the excess of energy to digestion, as well as deliver the cue that no further activity is on the horizon.
However, you might be stuck working out in the evenings, in which case there are other tactics you can try.
Post Workout Strategy
For example, if you hit the showers right after working out and crank up the heat to soothe sore muscles, you might want to try another strategy. Your body needs time to cool down after a workout and immediate heat is not going to do the trick.
Instead, think about taking the time to walk around the block or stretch with some relaxing yoga. This way you can slow your breathing, keep muscles from cramping up, and help your body to cycle down gradually. If you can stand it, wait at least an hour before showering. And consider using cool or lukewarm water instead of hot. You can soak tomorrow if your muscles are stiff, but cooling off is the key to cueing your body to relax following an intense workout.
And when you’re going to bed, get into a routine that prepares you for sleep. Leave the TV off (since it will only serve to stimulate your brain) and opt instead to listen to meditation music, read a book, do a crossword puzzle, or practice some other activity that helps you to focus and shut out stray thoughts. You could also try lying in the dark and using mind tricks like counting sheep or counting down from 300 by 3s (300, 297, 294, 291, 288, and so on). You might be surprised by how fast you fall asleep.
If all of those strategies fail you, there are a number of non-habit-forming supplements that can help you catch some Zs.
The best solution is to try melatonin, but if that doesn’t work you can add some Z-Quil (or a generic alternative). In a pinch if you don’t have mel or Z-quil, you can knock yourself out with NyQuil (or generic) or Tylenol PM. If you aren’t in a strict cutting phase and you don’t have an affinity to alcohol, try a glass of wine before bed. And finally, if you are a man you can try ZMA, which can both help men get to sleep and also balance out some vitamins and minerals that can help elevate natural testosterone levels.
See, there’s really no reason for post-workout insomnia with all of these techniques.
The real problem is that no one ever tries them, and if they do, they don’t string everything together to create an ideal relaxation environment. For example, taking melatonin and then playing video games for half an hour, is just not going to work. Three hours later you’ll still be wide awake, gaming. So do it right.
Pair post-workout recovery techniques with relaxation techniques, then add in the right supplement(s), and you will surely help yourself to fall asleep.