You unclip your shoes after a Beyoncé-level Soul Cycle class and sprint for the communal showers. Twenty minutes later you’re clean, caffeinated, and enjoying a delish Daily Harvest smoothie at your desk. While, yes, you can check “workout” off your to-do list for the day, you’ve overlooked one major feature of any well-rounded workout routine—the recovery.
“Exercise creates inflammation and the recovery part is where we get stronger and you heal from the exercise,” says Emily Kiberd, DC, a chiropractor at New York’s Urban Wellness Clinic. You heard her right: R&R is a must for any fit girl’s cool down.
“Exercise creates inflammation and the recovery part is where we get stronger and you heal from the exercise.”
Luckily, post-workout recovery basically involves all of your favorite self-care rituals. Think salt baths, essential oils, and yummy calf stretches. Since you’ll already be hitting the shower for a much-needed scrub, you might as well light some candles, settle in, and transform your bathroom into recovery heaven. Along with quartz (a tub essential) and your waterproof Kindle, you’ll also need a host of expert-endorsed practices to give your body a juicy reset from head-to-toe.
Keep scrolling for seven ways to turn your bathroom into a recovery oasis.
1. Before you step into the shower—dry brush your body.
Just like your locks, your body needs a good grooming every once and a while. “It’ll feel kind of scratchy at first because the bristles are firm,” says Dr. Kiberd, “but [it will help with] any sort of inflammation.” And that’s especially helpful when you’ve just worked out. Once you’ve acquired your dry brush, Dr. Kiberd suggests opting for gentle strokes that toward the center of your body.
2. Be *extra* gentle with your skin.
After a sweaty session at the gym, you may feel the urge for a deep scrub—but hold the phone. According to Joshua Zeichner, MD, a New York City dermatologist, a gentle touch is all you need. “It is important to cleanse the skin after working out, but there is such a thing as washing too much,” he says. Swap out harsh soaps containing an alkaline pH for their mellower counterparts (look for body cleansers that tout the words “soap-free”). Dr. Kiberd suggests sudsing up with charcoal soap to help wash away the environmental toxins that might still be lingering on your skin.
3. Do some temperature reps
The temperature of your shower also matters. Dr. Zeichner recommends keeping the water at or below 84°F (read: lukewarm, because otherwise you can dry out skin). If you want to give your bod a little extra attention, Dr. Kiberd favors alternating thirty seconds warm, thirty seconds cold, and so on. “It’s basically like vasodilating, vasoconstricting the muscles,” she explains. “It creates this pumping mechanism to pump out anything that’s sitting in there and stagnant.”
4. Stretch it out
If you didn’t have time to stretch after your run—never fear. Dr. Kiberd says that loosening your muscles in the shower (or bath!) is just as good. “If you’re taking a shower and your muscles are warmed up by the warm water and then you go to stretch, it will feel easier,” she says. Take note: All of the stretching should actually be done out of the tub (once you’re warmed up), rather than in the slippery environment.
5. Recreate the sea in your bathtub.
So you’re more of a bath kind of gal? Cool. According to Dr. Kiberd, a high-vibe bath is an A+ way to soothe your bod after a high-intensity workout. “When we’re working out, and we’re really heavy chest breathing, and we put our nervous system into fight or flight response. It’s nice afterward to calm the nervous system back down,” she says. So hit the lights, pour in the Epsom salts or sprinkle in some roses, and focus on your breathing.
6. Enlist the help of essential oils
Chances are you already have a fleet of essential oils at the ready for a host of reasons. Now you just need to line them up alongside your shampoo and conditioner to majorly up your shower game. Dr. Kiberd recommends stocking up on black pepper—which is anti-inflammatory. It can be taken orally, applied topically with a carrier oil, or mixed with other oils like marjoram or lemongrass for a nice full-body blend.
7. Make sure to moisturize
Shower? Check. Once you towel off, moisturizing is the next step. “Exercise has been shown to be associated with slowing the skin aging process,” says Dr. Zeichner, “So it is good both for your heart and for your skin.” Because intense workouts can lead to chafing and inflammation though, he says a thick coat of lotion with barrier boosters like ceramides is just the ticket to keeping your skin happy.
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