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Sample Class: Mindful Restoration and Recovery

Help participants optimize training with a recovery workout.

High-intensity interval training has been all the rage for a while now, but participants are finally starting to recognize the benefits of recovery. During this restorative phase, the body repairs itself, which leads to optimal training improvements. The following class supports the recovery process by exploring mindfulness, relaxation and breathing techniques. It also addresses body awareness, muscle tension and myofascial trigger points. Make this a stand-alone 60-minute class or condense it to a 30- or 15-minute session.

Mindful Restoration and Recovery Details

FORMAT: recovery

GOAL/EMPHASIS: mind-body tension relief, breath and body awareness, deep relaxation

EQUIPMENT NEEDED: mats, foam rollers, massage balls, stretching straps

MUSIC: yoga-inspired instrumental music (no specific beat or vocals); meditation music for final relaxation

Warmup: Circling the Senses (4 minutes)

Teach mindful presence and focus participants’ attention with this sequence:

Touch. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Close eyes. Breathe deeply, feeling your body in space. Shift weight forward and back, side to side. Settle in balanced posture. Notice all touch experiences—clothing, temperature, breezes, even breath in nostrils.

Sound. Allow sound to “fall” on ears—humanity, sounds of nature. Experience all sounds; do not focus on one.

Sight. Relax muscles around eyes. Without fixing gaze, take in light, shadow and colors—the visual palette.

Return attention to breath and senses, thoughts, feelings—all that is happening in this moment.

Breathing (5 minutes)

Encourage awareness without judgment.

  • Stand in mountain pose, one hand on chest, one hand on belly.
  • Inhale and exhale, 5 seconds each. Work up to 6 seconds, in and out.
  • Inhale: lift arms overhead; exhale: lower. 3x. Add full forward bend on exhalation. Hold.
  • Scan body for tension. Note it.
  • Inhale; exhale: roll up to standing. Use hands to walk up legs, if needed.

Self-Myofascial Release and Dynamic Stretching (about 32 minutes)

Educate participants about the myofascial system, encouraging discovery and body awareness.


  • Place small massage ball under center right foot. Inhale; exhale: press weight on ball.
  • Place ball under base of big toe, press and release. Repeat, base of each toe.
  • Move ball to foot center, toes off ground. Inhale: clench toes; exhale: release. 3x.
  • Lift heel and roll ball across front of heel, toes and ball of foot.
  • Place ball under base of big toe. Keeping heel fixed, move foot like a windshield wiper from big toe to pinky toe base. 3x.
  • Roll ball from base of big toe to heel. Repeat, each toe.
  • Massage both soles with rapid, random movements. Remove ball.
  • Repeat mountain pose, arms overhead to full forward bend. Scan body, noting physical tension. Return to standing.
  • Repeat, left foot.

Back, Chest and Arms

  • Stand on sticky mat facing away from wall, leaving a little distance between wall and your back.
  • Place two medium-sized balls on sides of spine above sacrum.
  • Slowly wall-squat as balls roll up and down either side of spine. Repeat 2x.
  • Move balls to midthoracic area. Repeat.
  • Move balls to upper back. Repeat.
  • Face wall and place ball on sternum; roll up and down.
  • Place ball to R of sternum under clavicle, reach R hand out, turn L (both feet), place L hand on wall, lean into ball, and roll out to R shoulder. Repeat 2x.
  • Move ball to shoulder joint. Then, roll into biceps, feet in split stance,
    L foot forward.
  • Remove ball, turn back to wall, and place ball on triceps.
  • Repeat sequence, L.

Dynamic Stretching/Mini Vinyasa: But­tocks and Hips

Hold poses for three breath cycles or 30 seconds.

  • Begin in mountain pose, at rear of mat.
  • Inhale: lift arms overhead; exhale: lower. 3x. Fold into forward bend.
  • Inhale: walk out to plank. Exhale: hold.
  • Inhale: chaturanga; exhale: lower.v
  • Inhale: push up into upward-facing dog.
  • Exhale: push back into downward-facing dog. Hold. Affirm silently, “Calmness radiates through every fiber of my being.”
  • Inhale: lift R leg to one-legged dog, pelvis and shoulders squared. Exhale: hold.
  • Inhale: sweep R leg forward to pigeon. Exhale. Inhale: gentle backbend; exhale: fold forward. Placing head on forearms, hold 5-6 breaths, releasing tension in buttocks and hips. Affirm silently, “I rise above all thought of past and future.”
  • Inhale: lift; exhale: push back to plank.
  • Repeat sequence from plank, L side.
  • Transition to child’s pose; hold. Affirm silently, “I relax into my inner haven of peace.”

Self-Myofascial Release (foam roller)

For each muscle group described below, use long, slow strokes—1 second per inch—for 20 seconds or three breath cycles to warm up. Then, target specific tension spots with cross-fiber massage or contract-relax motions. Finish with long, slow rolling over entire muscle length. Spend 1 minute minimum with each muscle group.

  • Lie on mat, knees bent, feet hip-width apart. Support head in hands. Place roller at midback and roll up toward shoulders and down, targeting thoracic spine. Flex and extend spine gently.
  • Place roller under midbuttocks, L side, in figure-4 position, L ankle on R thigh. Roll forward and back, focusing on tight areas around sit bones; rock side to side. Repeat, R side.
  • Place roller under sit bone on one side. Roll to back of knee to target hamstrings. Flex and extend knee.
  • For calf, place roller under knee joint. Place opposite leg on top of calf, if tolerated. Roll from knee to ankle, rotating internally and externally.
  • From plank, place roller under L knee, R leg bent, externally rotated. Roll from knee to hip, targeting quadriceps.
  • From side plank, place roller above knee. Bend top leg in figure 4, placing foot in front of bottom leg. Roll from knee to hip to target iliotibial band.

Stretch Strap

Hold stretches for three breath cycles or 30 seconds.

  • Lie supine, knees bent. Place strap on R foot and extend leg. Lift and lower 3x.
  • Circle leg 3x times outside, 3x inside.
  • Move leg to side for adductor stretch. Extend L arm, palm up.
  • Move leg to center, strap in L hand. Extend leg across body for abductor stretch. Extend R arm, palm up.
  • Sweep R arm toward head, stretching torso. Release strap.
  • Roll to L side; hold R foot or ankle for quadriceps stretch.
  • Roll to back; pull R knee to chest, placing R ankle on left thigh (figure 4).
  • Hug knees to chest.
  • Repeat sequence, L leg.
  • Hug knees to chest and massage lower back.
  • Extend legs for final relaxation.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Guided Meditation (5-7 minutes)

Progressive muscle relaxation involves sequentially tensing and relaxing muscles to develop awareness of tension and how to release it. Raise your voice when cuing to tense; lower it to encourage release. Start by tensing all muscles at once and releasing with a powerful exhalation. Cue from foot to head, squeezing and releasing each muscle group. End with a guided meditation of your choice.

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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