It's not abnormal to feel a little worn out after finishing a cardio workout. After all, you just knocked out 30 to 60 minutes (more if you're doing intense training) heart-pounding movement that requires your muscles, bones, and mind to stay focused and engaged the entire time. What you shouldn't feel is exhausted, completely drained or ready to just crawl in bed and go to sleep. If you're feeling too tired after a cardio sweat session, it's a good sign your pre-game needs some extra attention.
Take a look at everything you're doing before you lace up your shoes. Chances are, there's room for improvement that will prove out quickly in your post-workout state.
What Are You Eating?
You shouldn't start a workout on a totally full stomach, nor should you exercise on an empty stomach. You can achieve the happy medium by eating a light snack one or two hours before your workout starts. This may require a little planning; but if you've got an app for tracking your workout, surely you've got an app to remind you to eat!
This pre-workout snack should include a pairing of easily digested protein and a fast-burning carb, like a yogurt, smoothie, whey protein shake with fresh berries or apple slices and string cheese. You do not want anything with too much sugar, as it will burn quickly and leave you worn out before the workout ends.
You also need a post-workout snack, which is going to help re-energize you. Look at a complex carb plus protein combination, such as banana and cottage cheese, nuts and an apple, hummus and carrots, whole0-grain toast with peanut butter or a low-sugar protein shake.
What Are You Drinking?
Water, water, water, water, water... you get the idea? Stay hydrated with water all day long, not just in time for your workout or only during your workout. By drinking plenty of water throughout the day you can prevent and reduce muscle fatigue. If you finish a workout dehydrated, your body's working overtime to fight those symptoms instead of allowing you to feel the energy burst from the exercise.
A general rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces. A 150-pound person needs about 75 ounces (a little less than 9.5 cups) of water each day. That goes up a bit during physical exertion. The American Council on Exercise recommends eight ounces of water about 30 minutes before your workout and seven-to-ten ounces every 10 to 20 minutes during.
How'd You Sleep Last Night?
You know how a bad night of sleep leaves you dragging yourself into work and barely staying focused through meetings? Well, you're not much better off when you get to the gym. Sleep plays a vital role in performance during the workout, as well as how you rebound after the workout. I
f you're really feeling exhausted after cardio, schedule an earlier bedtime and aim for the 7 to 8 hours of recommended sleep by the National Institutes of Health. Especially if you're new to working out, your body is being taxed more than it's used to and needs plenty of time to recover, rest and rebuild.
Can You Pace Yourself?
Running, walking, swimming or performing any other cardio workout at a scheduled, tempered pace will help you to maximize your energy output during the workout and leave you feeling less drained afterward. It's a proven technique for marathoners that could save you a lot of unnecessary naps. A lot of apps exist to manage all of this for you, like C25K, MapMyRun, RunKeeper.
- Hospital for Special Surgery: Tips for Avoiding Muscle Fatigue When Exercising
- The Globe and Mail: What's the Best Snack to Eat Before a Workout?
- American College of Sports Medicine: Selecting and Effectively Using Hydration for Fitness
- Military.com: Prevent Fatigue During PFT
- Ben Greenfield Fitness: 8 Post-Workout Snacks -- “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things”
- Human Kinetics: How to Recover After Hard Cardio