In the minutes that follow a high-intensity workout—when your breathing is deep, your blood is pumping and your adrenaline is soaring—you may find yourself experiencing the urge to take a cool, refreshing shower. The impulse makes sense. A cold shower feels like the natural oppositional force to working out. It brings down our internal temperature, slows our breathing, and reenergizes our tired muscles. But, as it turns out, if you’re jumping into the shower while still actively sweating from your workout, you are not getting the most out of your cool-down. Because, yes, there is a “best” time to shower after a workout, and it’s not immediately after.
Women’s health coach Ariel Belgrave recently took to Instagram to dispel the long-held myth that showering right after a workout is the best practice. “Have you ever hopped in the shower right after your workout only to find yourself still sweating after that shower?” Belgrave asked her followers. Well, according to Belgrave, that’s because you didn’t take the time to properly cool down your body before shocking it with water.
So, when is the best time to shower after a workout? The answer is 20 minutes after your sweat session ends. “I know, I know. The last thing you want to do is linger around drenched in sweat after a workout,” said Belgrave. “But your body needs at least 20 minutes to cool down, boo,”
That said, the 20 minutes you spend waiting to shower need not go to waste. You can use this time to transition to a gentler exercise or begin a stretching routine. “While it may be frustrating to wait (especially when you are busy), you can use this time to also rehydrate your body, by drinking lots of water or make a delicious smoothie so it’s waiting for you when you get out of the shower,” Belgrave said.
Once you’re ready for soap and water, start your shower at a lukewarm temperature so that you’re not petrifying your body with water that is either too hot or too cold. For best results, slowly make the water colder over the course of the shower, and spend the last 90 seconds of your lather and rinse session under the coldest water you can tolerate. Then you—and your muscles—will be ready to take on the day.