If you think you’ve got to dash in the shower the moment your workout finishes, think again, argues veteran lingerer Anna Bartter. 

If you’re anything like me, you’re the kind of person who leaves it all on the mat during a workout. I love nothing more than feeling drenched in sweat after a tough session that ends with shaky legs and a bunch of endorphins.

I also sweat a lot. Some people don’t seem to sweat as much as others, but I do, and my post-workout hygiene needs to be on point.

While many of my friends shudder at the thought of not showering after working out, like so many women, I’m often exercising within a tight time window. That means I can’t always hit the shower immediately post-workout. Sometimes, it’s worth sacrificing a wash for that extra set… and hopping straight back to work in less-than-fresh togs. 

Am I disgusting? Maybe. But I’ve also recently discovered that there are good reasons to delay that post-run wash – and they might even improve your fitness.  

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The health benefits of waiting to wash after a workout

“During a workout, your body temperature and heart rate increase, especially after a higher intensity session. Jumping straight into the shower after this potentially risks contracting your dilated blood vessels too quickly,” explains women’s health and wellbeing expert Dal Dhaliwal.

I’m not talking about being a complete soap-dodger, but the experts all agree that giving your body some time to cool down and readjust post-workout really can be beneficial.  

Alex Randall, founder and CEO of Revel Sports tells Stylist: “I recommend waiting 20 minutes after working out before showering in order to allow your body to cool down gradually. Sweating helps to cool our body down – so if we shower immediately after working out, we remove the sweat from our skin before it has a chance to evaporate and help us cool down naturally. 

“It also helps to prevent any potential shock to your system and allows your body to continue reaping the benefits of the workout for a short while longer.” 

What about bacteria build up?

30 minutes is the maximum you should wait

Ideally, you should wait until you’ve stopped sweating profusely to hit the shower; otherwise, you run the risk of still being hot and sweaty after you’ve washed. This will vary from person to person, but in most cases, this will take between five and 30 minutes, depending on the intensity of the exercise.

Twenty minutes is the go-to window recommended by the experts, but there’s an important caveat to this: sitting around in sweaty clothes puts you at risk of infection from a build-up of sweat and bacteria. If you’re planning on a delayed shower, it’s vital to change into fresh clothes and to always wash your exercise gear after each use.

And I shouldn’t need to explain why it’s important to wash off that sweat at some point, even if it’s not done immediately. It’s not just about hygiene: it’s your chance to relax and bask for a few moments in that post-workout endorphin high.  

The mental benefits of bathing post-workout

Randall agrees with the therapeutic benefits of hitting the bathroom: “A post-workout shower can help to reduce muscle soreness by removing lactic acid buildup as well as help to improve circulation and promote healing.

“There is something about the combination of hot water and steam that seems to melt away the fatigue and stress of physical activity. In addition to its physical benefits, showering after a workout can also help to relax the mind and body. The act of showering can be a meditative experience, helping to clear the mind and promoting a sense of calm.”

Washing should be part of your cool-down regime

While it might be frustrating to wait to hit the shower, especially when you’re busy, there are plenty of things you can do with this time to aid recovery. Think about it in the same way you would a warm-up; that 20-minute pre-shower period is your cool-down.

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“I personally recommend incorporating a 10-20-minute cool-down segment at the end of your workout, including a stretch to prevent injury and soreness. This cool-down allows your body time to stabilise its temperature and is also a great time to rehydrate and have a nutritional, protein-based snack. After this you can hit the shower,” says Dhaliwal.  

In an ideal world, we’d all have the time to warm up, work out and cool down properly. But the upshot is, the next time you’re rushing back to the office after getting your sweat on over lunch, don’t feel too bad about skipping the shower. Just be sure to swap your clothes and look forward to that blissful soak after work, safe in the knowledge you’re taking care of your body in more ways than one.

Images: Getty

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