The Recovery Workout by Makena Nixon News & Events, Personal Training

The Recovery Workout

By Makena Nixon BS, CPT


Everyone has been working hard since the start of the year towards various health and wellness goals. Often individuals begin to experience burnout, injuries or general fatigue around this time of year due to the great enthusiasm they put into the initial push. Having well established workout and nutrition programs are essential in reaching your Health and Wellness goals- weight loss, muscle strengthening and toning, or running your first 5k results are not solely achieved by working out hard, but also by resting and recovering well.

Recovery and mobility focused workouts are important to mix in throughout any workout program, amidst the higher intensity routines. This ensures that the body will not get burned out or overly fatigued and stop gaining the benefits from all the time and effort put into the workouts. Proper nutrition, hydration and sleep are key components to implement during the hours you are not working out. Research has shown that individuals who honor these hours as their “recovery and regeneration” time experience better and longer-lasting results.


So what is a Recovery Workout?

Recovery workouts are sessions focused on small muscle recruitment, enhancing mobility and regeneration work designed to balance the autonomic nervous system. Additionally, recovery workouts keep the muscles moving and the blood pumping bringing fresh oxygen to the muscles to reduce soreness and stimulate muscle tissue repair. The workout should include proper breathing techniques throughout, self-myofascial release, stretches and dynamic exercises that do not go above 30% of effort, use only light loads, and are mobility focused. It is important to not only implement recovery focused workouts but also incorporate deep breathing, foam rolling and stretching into every workout. Overall, listen to your body and remember to rest and recover!

Sample Recovery Workout:

  • Diaphragmatic Breathing (3 minutes): Begin by laying down, sitting or standing and take a deep inhale in filling up the chest and then belly. Then allow your belly and then chest fall, as you exhale all of that air. Repeat these deep inhales and exhales 10-15x, allowing the body and nervous system to become engaged and prepared for the following exercises.
  • Targeted Self Myofascial Release (1-2 minutes on each muscle group): Foam roll the Calves, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Hip Flexors, IT bands, Adductors and any other area that might be overly tight within the body. Focusing on breaking apart those adhesions, so that fresh oxygen and blood flow can work at reducing the stress and muscle imbalances in those areas.
  • Dynamic/Mobility Stretches and Exercises:  
    • Half Kneel Stretch with Rotation: Start with right knee on the ground directly under the hips with the left foot on the floor directly underneath the left knee. Place both hands behind your head with the elbows pressed back. Maintain this hip position while you rotate your right elbow toward the left, rotating the thoracic spine. Then, reach both arms toward the ceiling and slightly behind you. Return your hands behind the head, square your shoulders to the front, and repeat.
    • Assisted Bodyweight Squat Hold: Hold a bodyweight squat position with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward. Turn feet out a bit if needed. Using an anchor (a bench or pole) for support, drive knees away from each other, and bring quads below parallel. Keep spine straight by pushing down with hands into anchor. If the heels are coming up off the ground or the back is rounding too far forward, try sitting on a yoga block so the hips can be safely stretched.
    • Plank Walkouts: Start in a standing position and slowly roll down placing the hands on the ground in front of the toes. Next, gradually walk the hands all the way out to a plank position and then slowly walk back up to the starting standing position. This is targeting the hamstrings as a stretch, as well as the core stability.
  • Repeat the Diaphragmatic Breathing from the beginning and any additional stretches the body needs! 

Walters & Kluwer, ACSM’S Guide to Exercise and Prescription