15 Ways to Add Self-Care to Your Workout Routine
This is how fitness pros show themselves a little TLC.
The fitness fanatics out there probably know the feeling of pushing yourself to the max in a workout. But a holistic approach to health and wellness involves movement, nutrition, and regeneration, says Alicia Agostinelli, a personal trainer and yoga instructor at Equinox Seaport Square in Boston. And while many avid gym-goers tend to be up to date when it comes to the latest HIIT craze or health food trends, most people falter when it comes to the recovery component, both for the body and the mind.
Practicing self-care strategies during your workouts and in your free time can help you come back stronger, and in a more peaceful headspace—not to mention they make exercise that much more enjoyable. Steal some tips from these top trainers who manage to sweat it out hardcore and still make self-care a priority.
Try a breathing exercise
“In session, I connect to my breath. I try to practice 4-7-8 breathing [breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for seven, then exhale for eight] a couple of times every hour to help me reduce stress and regulate my parasympathetic nervous system.” —Matt Delaney, CSCS, innovation coordinator and a Tier X coach at Equinox
Be your own biggest fan
“It took years, but I genuinely view fitness as an opportunity to be a better version of myself, to build myself up, and let my strengths guide me, while looking at weaknesses with a sense of compassion. When I need to rest during a tough core series, it's okay. I'm stronger than I was a year ago, and isn't that the point? It's so much more satisfying to push yourself to the tune of ‘yes I can’ than to be afraid of failing or feeling like you're somehow not good enough if you don't perform the way you wanted to. Your mental game affects how you feel emotionally and how you perform physically, so I always make sure my inner voice is pumped up, ready to rise up to a challenge, but is ready to celebrate every moment of the work I put in.” —Emily Walsh, a Boston-based instructor at SLT
Warm up, cool down, and hydrate
“I practice self-care while exercising by including a dynamic warm-up before any workout and a good stretch after. I also have water with me at all times to stay hydrated.” —Michelle Lovitt, a California-based trainer and author of Exercise For Your Muscle Type: the Smart Way to Get Fit
Get off Instagram at the gym
“The most important self-care action I can take during my workouts is to let my mind be in my workout 100%. I’ve had to create a rule so that I am not responding to emails, checking social media, or replying to texts when I workout. If I can escape and truly enjoy my workout, my life is fantastic.” —Holly Perkins, CSCS, author of Lift To Get Lean and founder of the online health and fitness platform Women’s Strength Nation
Keep an eye on the 'why'
“I am all about the whys behind the workout: why am I doing it, what will it achieve, and how will it make me feel. I am not a numbers-oriented person, so this is a way I track my progress and motivate myself to keep going.” —Aly Raymer, senior lead instructor and director of talent at B/SPOKE Studios, an indoor cycling studio in Boston
Tune into your body
“The best way to practice self-care during exercise is be conscious and listen to your body. Don’t ignore the signs of your body. I stretch whatever muscle I work after a workout and I try to treat myself to a massage once a month if possible.” —Scott Weiss, CSCS, a physical therapist and trainer in New York
Wear your favorite gear
“I am mindful of what I wear. I know that sounds silly, but when I feel good in my clothing and am wearing the right pieces for the workout, I will work out harder. If I am wearing something that doesn't fit well or is too thin (think: see-through in yoga!) I will be distracted the entire practice.” —Raymer
Meditate on the reg
“I have a very dedicated meditation practice that I do mornings and evenings. It literally keeps my head on straight. For me it’s critical that I work on my internal dialogue and remind myself to speak lovingly and in a supportive manner. I can get into trouble really fast if I don’t keep an eye on this. But when I am on track, my mental attitude really does help me live a happier life and accomplish more each day. And my body thrives on it.” —Perkins
“I write in a gratitude journal every single morning, listing three things that I’m thankful for from the past 24 hours, and I also read a passage from a book that a good friend gave me called Journey to the Heart. It helps me get my mind right and I feel a lot more calm before jumping into a busy day.” —Emily Abbate, an ACE-certified trainer and creator of the new podcast Hurdle
“Photography is my self-care. I picked up the hobby a couple of years ago and have made it part of my daily life ever since. It gives me an opportunity to step away from my normal schedule and get lost in the world around me for a little while. It's has also helped me separate from technology because my eyes are always on my surroundings looking for interesting photo opportunities and no longer buried in my phone.” —Delaney
“I keep my work, home, and training environments clean and orderly. Keeping things free from clutter has been proven to keep you on track and better at maintaining your goals.” —Weiss
Have a Sunday check-in
“Every Sunday, ask yourself: ‘What am I doing to take care of my mind and body this week? Can I add something to my daily routine that will rest or refresh me? Can I take something out that is no longer serving me?’ Recovery and regeneration is the often forgotten third leg of a three-legged stool. When we check in both on and off the exercise mat and implement changes that benefit our health wellness, we leave our workouts and enter our personal and work lives refreshed and recovered.” —Agostinelli
“My self-care outside of working out is to make sure I eat healthy, organic, non-processed foods. This is so important to my energy levels and mental functioning and clarity during my busy weeks of working out myself and my clients.” —Lovitt
Do something that brings you joy every day
“I rely on so many different methods to keep me stress-free and take care of myself beyond exercising. I write in a journal, I watch a good film, I go out and take photos. I make sure to incorporate some activity in my day-to-day that brings me joy and fulfillment.” —Sarah Coppinger, an instructor at indoor cycling studio The Handle Bar
Wake up with the birds
“During the week, I set my alarm 45 minutes to one hour earlier than I actually need to get up so I can enjoy some quiet time drinking fresh-ground coffee, enjoying a healthy breakfast, and writing in my journal. Being a small business owner, my days can be long and sometimes a little chaotic. Giving myself a little me time in the morning is a priority. It allows me to start the day off a little slower.” —Becca Lucas, owner of Barre & Anchor, a barre studio in Weston, Massachusetts