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Balanced Body COREterly

Spring 2019
Photo of woman exercising on a mat

Pilates and Athletes

Athlete’s Muscles Need Love, Too! 5 Exercises for Active Recovery

By Amanda Altman, Workout by Joy Karley

Whether you’re a professional athlete or new to your sport of choice, part of your workout routine should include rest and recovery. But spoiler alert: That doesn’t mean sitting on the sofa and binge-watching Game of Thrones all day! It means giving your body a little TLC.

“Active recovery helps increase circulation and range of motion while decreasing stiffness and soreness,” explains Joy Karley, a Balanced Body Master Trainer with a master’s in biomechanics and athletic training. “It’s a workout that’s gentler, less intense and designed to be done on days off from your regular training program.”

Here, Joy shares her favorite feel-good series that you can do anywhere, anytime. The purpose of this mini workout is to help facilitate muscle recovery and repair, so feel free to play around with the number of reps you do for each move. And since it takes just 15 minutes or so, you’ll have plenty of time to catch up on the latest drama within the Dragon Queen and the Seven Kingdoms.

The Exercises

#1 Roll-Up with Magic Circle Hamstring Stretch

THE ACTIVE RECOVERY ADVANTAGE: Enhances spinal articulation while facilitating dynamic hamstring stretching and increased range of motion.

HOW TO: Lie on your back with one foot in the Magic Circle, holding it in your hands with your other leg long. Inhale to prepare, then exhale as you roll up, keeping hold of the Circle and pulling your leg into a hamstring stretch at the top (similar to Climb a Tree on the Reformer). Inhale to prepare, then exhale as you roll down. Repeat 2-3 times, then switch legs.

DEEPEN THE BENEFIT: Keep your Circle leg straight as you stretch and roll up/down. If you have super-tight hamstrings, loop a band or yoga strap around the Circle to extend the reach. Push your foot into the Circle to assist in the roll-up/down.

#2 Articulated Bridges

THE ACTIVE RECOVERY ADVANTAGE: Blends spinal articulation with a dynamic hip/quad stretch.

HOW TO: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart. Inhale to prepare, then exhale as you slowly roll up into Bridge; inhale at the top, then exhale as you roll down.

DEEPEN THE BENEFIT: Keep your feet flat on the floor, with all 10 toes down. Roll only up to your shoulder blades, keeping them on the floor.

Photo demonstrating exercise Photo demonstrating exercise

#3 Single- and Double-Leg Kick

THE ACTIVE RECOVERY ADVANTAGE: Provides a dynamic quad/hip stretch, ankle dorsi/plantar flexion option and shoulder work (strength, stability and stretch).


Single: Lie prone, propping yourself up on your forearms with your abdominals lifted. Inhale, then exhale as you bend your right knee to gently kick your foot toward your tail, flexing and pointing your foot to increase the stretch. Extend your leg and repeat on your other side.

Double: Turn your head to one side with your hands behind your back. Inhale, then exhale as you bend both knees and gently kick your feet 3 times, flexing and pointing as desired. Inhale as you extend your legs, clasp your hands and stretch your arms, opening your shoulders and chest. Repeat on your other side.

DEEPEN THE BENEFIT: Firmly press your elbows into the floor with your ribs lifted and supported. Keep your neck slightly extended, avoiding looking up too much.

#4 Spine-Stretch Side/Twist/Saw

THE ACTIVE RECOVERY ADVANTAGE: Combines spinal articulation, lateral flexion/rotation, as well as dynamic stretching for the spinal extensors, obliques and QL.


Spine Stretch: Sit tall with your legs extended, feet flexed and arms stretched to your sides. Inhale, then exhale as you reach out and stretch up and over to your right; inhale as you sit back up. Exhale to repeat to the left.

Twist: Inhale, then exhale as you rotate to the right; inhale back to center. Reverse to the left, reaching your arms wide as you go.

Saw: Inhale, then exhale as you rotate right, reaching your left hand to “saw” your right baby toe while keeping your core scooped and your gaze on your right hand. Inhale as you sit back up, and then reverse to the left. Do 4-5 reps of each movement.

DEEPEN THE BENEFIT: Got tight hamstrings? Sit on a rolled-up mat or a yoga brick. Reverse the breath pattern for a different feel and flow.

Photo demonstrating exercise Photo demonstrating exercise

#5 Push-Up Roll-Down to Plank Prep

THE ACTIVE RECOVERY ADVANTAGE: Promotes spinal articulation, dynamic hamstring and spinal extensor stretching, shoulder strength and stability challenge, and core activation.

HOW TO: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Inhale as you reach your arms up, then exhale as you roll down and place your hands on the floor. “Walk” your hands out into plank, keeping your abdominals lifted; walk your hands back in, then inhale to roll up to standing and reach your arms overhead. Repeat 3-4 more times.

DEEPEN THE BENEFIT: Slowly roll down and up, focusing on deliberate articulation. Tuck your chin as you roll, and extend your neck to a neutral position in the plank.