After spending a week or two in bed with the flu, you may be eager to get back to your usual exercise routine. But before you dive into your favorite HIIT workout, ease your body back into things with some gentle movement.
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How soon can you exercise after being sick? There's no set amount of time you need to wait but it's probably best to hold off until you're free of fever, muscle ache and/or bad coughing. Pushing through the flu can delay your recovery, keeping you out of commission even longer.
This 20-minute strength and mobility routine is the perfect place to start once your symptoms recede, according to physical therapist and strength and conditioning coach Melissa Garcia, DPT, CSCS. While Garcia does provide a recommended set and rep scheme for each exercise, listen to your body and take as many breaks as needed.
Check out more of our 20-minute workouts here — we’ve got something for everyone.
Move 1: World's Greatest Stretch
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, fold over at the hips and plant your hands on the ground.
- Slowly walk your hands forward while keeping your legs as straight as possible until you are in a high plank with your shoulders over your wrists.
- Step your right foot to the outside of your right hand so you’re in a low lunge.
- Twist to your right side, reaching your right arm toward the ceiling and opening your chest.
- Bring your right elbow to the inside of your right foot, then reach your right arm toward the ceiling again.
- Repeat this motion for 30 seconds.
- Do the same on the left side.
Move 2: Dynamic Half-Kneeling Hamstring Stretch
- Begin kneeling with your hands on your hips.
- Step your right foot forward, foot flat on the ground, knee bent at 90 degrees.
- Straighten your right leg, pointing your toes toward the ceiling, and gently reach forward.
- Hold here for a beat, then rock your body back and bend the right knee again.
- Repeat this motion for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Move 1: Glute Bridge
- Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, feet flat on the ground and knees bent.
- On an exhale, squeeze your glutes, press into your heels and drive your hips up toward the sky.
- Raise your hips until you form a diagonal line from knees to hips to chest.
- Pause here for a moment.
- Reverse the motion and return to the starting position.
Move 2: Body-Weight Squat
- Start standing, feet hip-width apart.
- Extend your arms out in front of you and slowly bend your knees as you push your hips back to squat down. Focus on lowering your body as if you were going to sit on a chair.
- Squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor (or as low as you can go comfortably while maintaining good form). Your knees should be over your toes and your gaze should be straight ahead.
- Pause for a moment at the bottom of your squat.
- Reverse the motion by pressing through your heels to return to standing. As you stand, lower your arms back to your sides.
Move 3: Bear Plank
- Begin on hands and knees, palms in line with your shoulders and knees in line with your hips.
- Rooting your palms in the ground, raise your knees an inch or two off the ground.
- Hold this position, knees hovering above the ground, back flat.
This one is a tough plank variation. Try your best to hold the bear plank for the full 20 seconds, but you can also tap your knees down for a few moments whenever you need a break.
Move 4: Plank Shoulder Tap
- Get into high plank on your hands and toes with your wrists directly below your shoulders and your hips square to the ground. Avoid sagging or raising your midsection.
- Move your feet out a bit wider than hip-width apart so that your body has a stable base.
- Slowly lift your right hand off the ground and gently tap it to your left shoulder.
- Lower your right hand back into plank, then switch it for your left hand. Complete your shoulder tap on the other side. Try to keep your hips square to the ground throughout the entire exercise.
- Repeat, right hand and then left hand, until you reach fatigue.
Beginners can try doing this for 30 seconds and working up to 60.
Move 1: Half-Kneeling Bow and Arrow
- Start in a half-kneeling position with your right knee on the ground and your left food planted on the ground, knee bent to 90 degrees.
- Hold your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height.
- Keeping your left arm in place, slide your right hand across your upper body (as if you were using a bow and arrow) until your right fingers are facing the back of the room.
- Reverse the motion until you're back to the starting position.
- Then, repeat with the left hand, keeping the right in place.
- Alternate hands until you complete all the reps. Then switch legs.
Focus on rotating through your upper back away from the front leg, Garcia says.
Move 2: Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch With Side Bend
- Begin kneeling, hands at your sides. Step your right foot forward, knee bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Sink your hips forward, tucking the pelvis until you feel a stretch along the front of your left hip.
- Raise your left arm up and bend gently to your right.
- Hold here for 60 seconds, then switch sides.
Slowly lean in and out of this position as your hips start to loosen up, Garcia says.
Move 3: Lying Windshield Wiper
- Lie on the ground with your arms at your sides, feet flat on the ground and knees pointing toward the ceiling.
- Keeping your back and shoulder blades on the floor, drop your knees gently to the right side of your body.
- Pause here for a moment, then bring your knees back to the center.
- Drop the knees to the left, pause, then return to the start.
- Continue alternating from side to side.
Move 4: Dynamic Adductor Stretch
- Begin kneeling, arms at your sides.
- Place your palms on the ground and extend your right leg out to the right, knee straight.
- Gently push the hips back, stretching the right inner thigh.
- Pause here for a few moments, then push the hips forward, sitting the body up.
- Repeat this motion for 60 seconds before switching sides.