Why Showering Is Essential After Working Out
When putting together a workout routine, your schedule tends to go as follows:
The pre-workout stage will focus on warming up and getting ready to exercise. You'll do some dynamic stretching, light work, and build yourself up to your active workout sets. After completing the workout, you have the stage where you essentially cool down from it. Again, stretching is involved, but there's often an element of your post-workout routine that gets neglected.
Believe it or not but showering should become a significant part of this routine. Everyone should shower after working out, and not just for hygiene reasons (though that is very important). If you keep on reading, you'll learn exactly why you should try to shower soon after working out:
Improve muscle recovery
Jumping into a cold shower after working out can have similar effects to that of an ice bath. Ice baths and cold therapy techniques have been used for centuries by athletes all over the world. The science behind it is fairly straightforward: exposing your muscles to cold temperatures can reduce inflammation, preventing soreness. This is why tennis players will jump in ice baths after playing, so their muscles aren't super sore the next day when they have to step out on the court again.
Clearly, not everyone has access to an ice bath, so a cold shower is the next best thing. Taking it straight after your workouts will reduce inflammation and help your muscles start cooling down and relaxing. You should experience less stiffness the following day, and that's because the cold shower helps to remove lactic acid from your body.
So, if you constantly suffer from muscle soreness after workouts, a cold shower could help you recover faster, which may allow you to work out more frequently, improving your results.
Lower your heart rate
A big part of your post-workout routine should revolve around getting your heart rate back to its normal level. If you do some stretches and then leave the gym, your HR is still going to be pretty high. This means your sympathetic nervous system is activated, which is basically the fight or flight mode. It can be hard for you to get on with any immediate tasks because there's still so much adrenaline pumping throughout your body.
A shower can help you reduce your HR and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Granted, if you hop in a freezing cold shower, you may get an initial jolt where your HR increases. But, if you turn it down slightly after a few moments, or just allow your body to get used to the water, your HR will slowly start to decrease.
Turning on your parasympathetic nervous system is essential because this is the body's rest and recovery mode. As such, your body starts producing all the key things needed to flood your muscles full of nutrients to help them repair and regrow. Again, this can speed up recovery time and prevent muscle soreness.
Stop body acne
Body acne is a big problem for lots of people that exercise regularly. While working out, you produce a lot of sweat. This sweat can then dry and start to clog up your pores. Consequently, the clogged pores lead to breakouts, which can leave you with really bad body acne.
Showering soon after your workout will prevent this. You are basically washing away the sweat, which unclogs the pores and prevents infections that lead to bad acne breakouts. While not necessarily something associated with your health or recovery, it is still fairly important. Acne can be hard for you to deal with when you have it, leading to all sorts of mental health problems. You stop wanting to wear certain clothes because you're anxious about your body acne.
All you have to do is shower after exercising, and this won't be a problem. Just make sure that the shower isn't too hot or too long. As noted in the article – Dry Skin: Causes, Treatment, And Prevention – hot and long showers can cause dry skin. Too much hot water on your body actually dries your skin out, which could lead to flaky areas that are very itchy. Keep your showers cold and short, and you will prevent acne and excessively dry skin.
Remove nasty bacteria or fungi
It was mentioned in the introduction, but showering is crucial for hygiene reasons. Some people don't see the need to shower after the gym because they're only covered in their own sweat. However, think about things logically. How many people use the same gym as you? How many were lying on the same mat or the same bench? There are loads of bacteria and fungi all around you when you're working out, and all of them can attach themselves to your skin.
Aside from causing breakouts, this could actually lead to more serious infections. Taking a shower will stop any harm. As already mentioned, it will wash things off your body and leave your skin nice and clean. You get rid of bacteria and fungi, so there's less of a chance you'll end up with infections after working out. This is especially important for women that wear sports bras or cropped tops where a lot of their skin is showing.
What if you're working out at home? Yes, you don't have the same bacteria issues as you aren't sharing the workout space with hundreds of other people throughout the day. But, bacteria still exist – especially on workout mats. When was the last time you actually washed your yoga mat? It may have lots of old bacteria on there that can easily cause infections. So, yes, even if you don't work out in a gym, you should still shower to remove dirty bacteria.
When is the best time to shower after working out?
Ideally, as soon as you have finished your workout.
If you are working out at home, then you should definitely try to shower soon after. This might mean you adjust your schedule to allow for your post-workout shower. It's time to stop looking at this as something you just have to do at any point in the day. Instead, it should be something you actively include as part of your post-workout routine. Stretching is good, but it's arguably better to shower if you can only choose between the two. Stretch when you have more time before bed – leaving your shower for too long can be bad.
What if you don't have time to shower or there are no showers at your gym?
This can be problematic, but it isn't the end of the world. If time is the issue, you are urged to really try your absolute best to fit it in. Nevertheless, if you have cut down your workouts or attempted everything to make room for a shower – and you still can't – there are other things you can do. Shower as soon as you can when you get home. This ensures you still see the recovery benefits of a cold shower. Before you leave the gym, try to reduce your HR as much as possible to gain similar benefits to a shower. From a hygiene perspective, bring body wipes that you can use to wipe your back and body before leaving. Then, pop on some clean clothes to prevent sweat and bacteria from lingering on your body all day.
Overall, it is a smart idea to start adding showers to your workout schedule and to leave time for them after working out. As you can see, the benefits are plenty!