Ask a Trainer: What Should I Do Before and After A High-Intensity Workout?

Being intentional about mobility before and after intense workouts will not only make for better sessions, it'll help you recover faster and stay healthy.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Mobility is often viewed as a stand-alone series of movements sprinkled in throughout the week. Little do athletes realize mobility before and after high-intensity training sessions will not only make for a better workout but will also lead to less soreness and healthier tissue following the session. How often has it taken you a few intervals to feel like you are moving well? Do you spend the rest of the day noticing sore body parts after a hard session? Both issues can be mitigated through pre- and post-workout mobility. Prior to workouts, we need to groove our moves and after we need to restore the body to pre-activity length. The key is selecting the right movements for each window of time.

The Importance of Pre-Workout Mobility

Pre-workout mobility should focus on getting you ready to go! For my athletes, I include a full array of linear, lateral, and rotary movements covering hinging, squatting, and lunging in the programming. Start with simple movements and progress to more complex. As endurance athletes, we are not trying to rival the warm-up process of Cirque du Soleil performers. We are simply improving range of motion specific to the sport and preparing the tissue to handle load. I included a full warm-up process below, or you can simply use the mobility section.

The Importance of Post-Workout Mobility

After workouts, the goal is calming the nervous system and restoring pre-activity range of motion. This is not the best time for aggressive stretching! We use static holds at 40-60% intensity followed by whole-body movements. Start by addressing the connective tissue with lacrosse ball work and foam rolling. After the connective tissue has been addressed, I use a series of static holds and incorporate diaphragmatic breathing to engage the parasympathetic system. The last part is a series of lunge steps to reconnect the body and mobilize diagonal, rotational, and spiral fascial lines.

With the variety of easily accessible mobility movements out there it is more about the type, when to incorporate them, and being consistent week in and week out. Included are a few examples of the process I use with athletes to give you a head start. While there are certainly short-term benefits, the real value is the long-term health of your soft tissue. 

Before High-Intensity Sessions

Mobility (1 x 3-5 each movement each side) – Video

Activation w/Superband or Pre-Run Activation w/Mini Band (1 x 10 each) (Superband video or Mini Band video)

Dynamic Warm Up (1 x 10m each) – Video

Leg Swing and Dynamic Stability (1 x 10 swing and 10 Steps Dynamic Stability) – Video

After High-Intensity Sessions

Mid Foot Mobility (1 x 20 sec roll, 10 cross friction, 5 wrap and spread your toes, 10 knee shifts) – Video

Calf Stretch (1 x 30-60 sec each position each side) – Video

Foam Roll (1 x 3 slow rolls and shearing where indicated) – Video

Wall Series (1 x 30-60 sec each position each side) – Video

Couch Stretch (1 x 1 min rear to heel 1 min with less knee bend and more hip extension) – Video

3 Position Trunk Rotation (1 x 3-5 each position each side) – Video

Diaphragmatic Breathing ( 1 x 5-10 breaths) – Video

Flexibility Highways (1 x 5 each movement each side) – Video

Kevin Purvis is a certified personal trainer with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He’s based in Boulder, Colorado, where he works with a number of endurance athletes.

Jan Frodeno Reflects on His Final Ironman World Championship

Immediately after finishing 24th place at his final Ironman World Championships, the Olympic medalist (and three-time IMWC winner) explains what his race in Nice meant to him.