Active Recovery

This Full-Body Recovery Toolkit Eases Every Kind of Tension From Your Day

Erin Bunch

Photo: Stocksy/Studio Firma
The work-from-home situation has taken the discomfort of being chained to a computer all day to new heights. People are working anywhere they can find—the bed, couch, dining room table, floor—and virtually none of the options available offer proper positioning. As a result, everything hurts—neck, wrists, back, and even the feet (cross-legged sitting for many, many hours a day is, I'm guessing, not super advisable?). What you need is a toolkit of recovery workout videos to release all that tension.

None of this is helped by the fact that for many of us, recovery methods like massages and visits to the chiropractor are off limits—or, at least, are not the preferred first line of defense—due to pandemic precautions. Fortunately, however, there is one form of relief we can practice safely from the (dis)comforts of our own homes: intentional movement. Sometimes, all your body needs is to be afforded a break from the workday hunch and shifted into new and different gears so it can release tension and thereby relieve pain.

Below, find a playlist of sorts to help you heal wherever it is in your body that you're feeling the ill effects of pandemic posture.

The best active recovery videos for each part of your body

1. When your neck and shoulders feel like they're bearing the weight of the world

The last time I received a massage, a week before the pandemic shutdown, the therapist told me I needed to come back once a week because my shoulders were in miserable shape. "You need a lot of work," she said. Well, I've had exactly zero massages since then, but I've upped the amount of time I spend in front of screens by at least 40 percent. Needless to say, I do not feel great.

If you're experiencing a similar trajectory—and let's be honest, it's really our smartphone addictions that are killers for the neck and shoulders—this gentle 15-minute flow from BK Yoga Club's Alicia Ferguson and Paris Alexandra, which targets those specific areas, should help.

2. When your wrists are sore (from scrolling—stop it!)

The ol' iPhone isn't great for your wrists, either, and neither is typing on a laptop that is actually on your lap—mine are so tweaked from these behaviors that I actually have to do self-massage on them nightly. Practicing proper wrist posture, when that option is available to you, can help tremendously in terms of preventing aches and pains; however, once the damage has been done, only stretching can save you.

In this video, trainer Charlee Atkins, CSCS offers actual workouts you can do specifically to improve discomfort in your wrists. And for those of you who, like me, use painful wrists as a copout for various difficult exercises (hello, plank), Atkins also offers alternative poses that'll be gentler on that delicate yet critical part of your body.

3. When your lower back is killing you

One of the first signs you're not 21 years old anymore—or that you've been living through a year-long pandemic—is lower back pain. Much of this is a result of posture, and while no workout can help you sit up straight at an ergonomically-designed desk situation all day, strengthening your core can actually help to make all postures less painful. Theoretically, this is because with heartier abs, your body will rely less on your the ligaments, spinal bones, and discs of your back to do all the work, and this shared load makes all things less uncomfortable.

In this 20-minute video, East River Pilates instructor Brian Spencer demos a Pilates workout aimed specifically at strengthening the core for this purpose. As an added bonus, it'll work the back, in a good way, too. “It’s designed to help activate stabilizers that promote low back health to help you feel good in your low back every day and for the rest of your life,” says Spencer.

4. When your posture has become garbage

In this video, we're back with East River Pilates instructor Brian Spencer, this time for a 16-minute Pilates routine aimed at improving your overall posture to prevent lower back pain and other bodily aches from developing in the first place. It actually emphasizes the postural muscles, which are different from but very connected to the core muscles. And if you're finding it difficult to motivate, it's worth noting that Spencer says this workout will help you be "blessed not stressed" as you move through life—which, hashtag goals.

5. When you can't feel your feet (or can, in a bad way)

When you consider just how critical they are to overall mobility, it's odd how often we overlook TLC for our feet. Sure, we may give 'em a salt scrub every once in awhile, but it's a rare day when movement is done intentionally to ease the heavy burden they bear on our behalf. In this video, Nike master trainer Traci Copeland offers up four separate stretches you can use specifically to ease tension and tightness in the feet and prevent injury. Together, they're a great set to do solo or to tack on as prep for a full workout, run, or even walk.

6. When you're entire body is numb from sitting all day, every day

Just when you thought human beings couldn't sit any more than they already did, the pandemic hit. Now, we not only sit throughout the workday, but with life still safer at home, we do a lot of sitting after hours, too. As a result, oftentimes I feel like my body just needs to be jolted awake midday, to be reminded that it exists for an (albeit, diminishing) purpose.

This 10-minute mobility routine from trainer Ash Wilking offers just that, with a series of moves that flex, extend, and release all the underutilized parts of your body from head to toe. It's the perfect way to break up a workday, and an excellent alternative to spending 10 minutes pausing on your hustle to scroll Instagram while everything below the waist atrophies.

7. When you need to open up your hips, shoulders, and life but are stuck (mostly sitting) inside

If you feel like you're taking up less and less space due to this pandemic—I swear, I'm shrinking—you're not alone. I mean technically, most of us are taking up less space by spending the bulk of our time hunched at a desk or huddled on the couch. This 24-minute yoga flow from Nike trainer Traci Copeland offers a snack-sized opportunity to stretch your body out, up, down, and around as the remedy to all this shrinkage and, especially when compared to the rest of the day's activities, the result feels a little like flying.

8. When you need to unwind, because your body literally feels like the stiff kind of pretzel

Sometimes all the stress and tension collects in so many nooks and crannies of the body that it needs to be literally wrung out, like a wet towel, in order for it and you to find relief. In this 30-minute video, BK Yoga Club's Alicia Ferguson and Paris Alexandra demo a juicy flow that'll have you leaving it all on the mat, in the best of ways. This yummy practice is perfect for yogis at any and all levels, including those who have never before struck a single pose. You will feel like a new person—or, at the very least, the same person with a new body—as you finish and fortunately, the flow is just short enough to squeeze into your day whenever you need rejuvenation (or, reinvention?) most.

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