The best way to recover from a tough workout session.

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You’ve sweated up a river and your body hurts so much you genuinely believe you may never walk again — yep, there’s nothing quite like that feeling after a particularly hard exercise session.

But once those “I actually did it!” endorphins fade away, what’s the best way to recover? If you automatically answered “stretch, duh”, then you may be in for a surprise.

According to Nardia Norman, Master Coach for the Australian Institute of Fitness, the answer actually varies depending on the type of workout you’ve just completed.

“If your goal is to increase your strength or to build muscle, then the workout would primarily consist of resistance training and it is not recommended you stretch immediately after this type of workout as you will undo the effects of the workout. Stretch a few hours later instead,” she says.

If it’s a more general workout, then stretching as well as foam rolling is important in preventing future injury and enabling your body to cool down. And while you may feel like you’ve earned the right to lie in bed for the next 50 years, you do need to keep moving. Sorry.

Watch: Former Bachelor Sam Wood demonstrates a simple circuit. (Post continues after video.)


“You need to include both active (stretching, massage) and passive (resting) recovery in your routine,” Norman says.

“Do what feels good for your body at the time.  If you are really sore you can do gentle movement or static stretching.”

Of course, the obvious exception to the rule is if you feel any pain at all.

“A workout should challenge you but not annihilate you.  If there is any pain that goes above and beyond what is a normal response to the workout then it needs to stop immediately,” she says. (Post continues after gallery.)

“You can also look at your form or technique – if this is starting to break down, then that is a sure sign that you have pushed too hard and the workout is becoming ineffective and potentially dangerous.”

Ultimately it comes down to balance; the quality of your workout is always going to beat quantity. Overdoing workouts will actually do more harm than good and it’s important to remember that what you do outside your session has just as much of an impact.

“Rest and recovery are the keys to success and these can determine the results you get and how you perform. Make the time to rest, integrate days of low-intensity exercise such as walking, and always include some form of stretching or mobilisation on a daily basis.”

How do you recover from a tough workout?