You’ve been consistent with your workout for a few weeks now and you’re starting to see results. And you probably now feel the urge to go at it a little harder a couple of times per week. Great, you are on your way to not looking so bad. What you do need to pay attention to is the recovery after a workout. Many of us have made the mistake of hitting the workout hard day-after-day and not allowing our muscles to recoup. Over the years, gym teachers, trainers, and even doctors have told us we need 24-48 hours of recouping a certain muscle group in order to keep what we just worked for and also give our muscles time to repair in order to do it all over again.

Recovery isn’t brain surgery, but you need to know what steps to take in order to properly execute the process. Glance over these pointers and do your body some good. You’ll see some nice results after a while and not feel sore all the time.

Stretching: We’re not talking stretching before a workout — although recommended — we’re talking loosening up after a workout. It’s generally a good idea to stretch after every set you do when you are working out, but definitely do it after you are finished. Take at least five minutes to do some serious stretching and obviously focus on the muscle groups you just worked out. This loosens the tension created by your workout and will keep some of the potential soreness at bay. This makes for less repair your muscles have to focus on, so they can move on to strengthening and building on what you just put them through.

Cool Down: Cooling down is something you will do before the stretching portion begins. You basically decrease your intensity if you are running or doing other cardio activities and finish with some light weight and reps if you are pumping iron. Do this for about 5-10 minutes and you will see less stiffness in your muscles afterwards. It’s all about getting rid of lactic acid in your muscles which cause soreness and other unpleasant feelings.

Cold Water: It may not be fun, but a cold shower or cold bath will also help in your recovery. It is used by professional athletes worldwide and that’s good enough to sell us on the idea. One good method is to do your after-workout stretching while in a hot shower so your stay loose, then get into a cold bath to finish your water-based therapy. It’ll mess with your nerve endings and possibly cause you to go into shock, but your muscle recovery will be A+.

Drink: You know all that sweat you just dumped on the gym floor? You need to replace that. Be careful about drinking too much water or other fluids while actually working out, but after you are finished, you need to get some liquid going. Water is the top choice, naturally, but other drinks like Gatorade will help get your system jump-started again and your muscles won’t have to siphon off your liquid reserve.