What 12 Top Trainers Do After Their Workouts
You probably have an idea of what fitness pros do at the gym to get into such enviable shape. Here's a glimpse into what they're up to after they finish exercising.
By Emma Haak
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"I wash my hands immediately after a workout," says Susan Stanley, a trainer at Equinox in New York. It's a good idea: Sixty-three percent of gym equipment tested positive for viruses, including the cold-causing rhinovirus, in a study in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine
. "Even the cleanest gyms have germs, because of the sheer number of people touching things," says Stanley. "It's like being on a subway."
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"A trip to the grocery store is always part of my routine," says Dallas-based Kristen Hoffman, a Mind Body manager and an instructor at Exhale. "Junk food sounds awesome when I'm chilling on the couch, but when I've just done something good for my body, I'm much more likely to buy healthy stuff." Follow her lead if you're usually tempted to snag a bag from the chip aisle, since what
you eat may matter more for weight loss than how many calories you burn at the gym
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"I eat right away, and I always eat the same thing because I'm a ritualistic dude," says Gunnar Peterson, CSCS, a Beverly Hills personal trainer. "I take 30 ounces of water, some protein powder, some blueberries and some powdered amino acids, mix it in a huge bowl and put it in the freezer before my workout. By the time I'm done, it's like a slushie with a little bit of crunch. My wife thinks it's disgusting." Research supports Peterson's fruit choice (if not the rest of his combo). A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
suggests that fueling up with blueberries before and after a workout may help muscles regain strength faster and lower your levels of exercise-induced oxidative stress.
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"Foam-rolling my IT bands is a must after every run. I've had problems with the band on my right side, so I really focus on that one. I roll all the way from my hip to my knee and spend the most time working problem areas that tend to be more painful," says Debora Warner, founder and program director of Mile High Run Club in New York. A 2014 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
found that foam-rolling after a demanding workout helped reduce muscle soreness and increased subjects' range of motion.
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"I don't stop moving when I'm done," says Erin Oprea, a personal trainer in Nashville. "After I finish a workout on a weekend morning, my husband and I walk all around the city, stopping at restaurants along the way and ordering a different vegetable dish at each. I might throw in some walking lunges too. We can get 30,000 steps in a day if we try." Staying active beyond the gym is essential in our sit-all-day-long world. Even if you break a sweat regularly, an otherwise sedentary lifestyle can contribute to serious issues like cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to a recent study in Annals of Internal Medicine
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Stiff hip flexors (which can be caused by sitting too much) can lead to lower-back pain. Help prevent the progression by stretching them daily, like Brooke Marrone, a New York personal trainer and the founder of Brooke Marrone Fitness, does. "My hip flexors are supertight, so I stretch them no matter what kind of workout I just finished," she says. Her go-to move: Kneel on the floor and place one foot out front with your knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Then push your hips forward, keeping your front knee above your front foot, hold and switch legs.
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"I head straight to the steam room for 10 to 15 minutes," says Ingrid Nelson, a Washington D.C.. personal trainer and the founder of ING Group personal training. She always drinks at least one liter of water while she's steaming. Prefer the dry heat of a sauna? It may do your heart some good: Men who hit the sauna 4 to 7 times per week were 50 percent less likely to develop fatal cardiovascular disease compared with those who logged fewer sessions, according to a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine
(the researchers aren't clear on exactly how time spent in the sauna leads to better health).
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"After a workout, my head is clear, my mood is better, and I work faster and more efficiently, so that's when I tackle the creative problems on my to-do list," says Mary Helen Bowers, a former professional ballerina with the New York City Ballet and founder of Ballet Beautiful fitness. Post-workout may be the optimal time to take on any type of mentally challenging task, as research in Psychology and Aging
suggests that exercise has an immediate positive effect on cognition.
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Refuel, but keep it reasonable. "I see people taking in more calories in the 5 minutes after a workout than they burned during an hour of sweating," says Joshua Feldman, the district fitness manager for Crunch Gyms. "You really have to watch it with shakes—you could be adding 400 calories without even realizing." Feldman limits his post-workout shakes to roughly 250 calories and uses just water, ice and protein powder.
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"I relax my muscles at the end of the day by adding 1 or 2 cups of Epsom salt to my bath, plus a drop each of lavender and chamomile essential oils," says Mariska Breland, the founder and an instructor at Fuse Pilates in Washington, D.C. "I soak for as long as the water stays warm, then I'm done." There's not much research backing the case for Epsom salt baths (the thinking goes that muscle-relaxing magnesium released by the salts gets absorbed through the skin), but lavender oil has some science on its side for overall relaxation. The smell of it can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, according to a small study in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand
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"I drink 16 ounces of water during a 45-minute class, and I double it if the class is longer than 45 minutes," says Wendy Wolfson, a Flywheel Sports instructor in New York. "If I'm leading the class, I usually forget to drink, so I'll finish an entire bottle of water after it's over but before I walk out of the studio. Either way, I'm rehydrated before I go about the rest of my day." Subpar hydration could set you up for crankiness later—being dehydrated by just 1.36 percent had negative effects on mood and concentration and increased headache symptoms among female subjects in a small study in The Journal of Nutrition
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Take a few minutes of quiet meditation before moving on to the next thing. Michelle Blakely, a personal trainer and the founder of Blakely Fit studio in Chicago, Illinois, even has a way to carve out quiet space in a crowded gym. "I've found that if you lie on a towel with your eyes closed and some ear buds in, people leave you alone," she says. "They think you're asleep."