Here you are, at the end of another amazing class. You have given your participants your heart and soul over the last 50 minutes and can see the results in their tired smiles and accomplished looks. At this point it would be easy to give high 5’s around the room and send them on their way with a “Good Job!” or “You Rock!” BUT… You know, that one of the most important parts of the workout is about to happen. You rally your class to stay for a few more minutes and begin to transition and cool them down!
This transition phase of class gives you as an instructor the opportunity to not only connect with your class on a more personal level, but also give participants exercises that will decrease their risk of injury, protect and improve their mobility as well as assisting them in gaining flexibility and strength.
It is a win-win for every BODY. Many times, participants are in hurry to leave before the transition phase of class. The body of the work out is over and the understanding of WHY they should stay is not covered. Next time you get to the end of class, use these WHYS to remind participants of the importance of transition, and then feel free to try out 1, or all 7 of these top fav cool down exercises next time you teach your group fitness class!
Why You Should Do Cool-Down Exercises
*Improve joint range of motion. When you can improve the connective tissue and elasticity of muscles around joints, it will for greater freedom of movement. This results in the ability to perform and do the things/activities/movement you love with greater ease.
*Decreasing your risk of injury. These types of cool down exercise will assist in keeping muscles flexible and lean. This stretching creates a healthy muscle with a balance of strength and flexibility. Healthy muscle will help keep you from falling and improve balance issues.
*Muscle repair. Stretching will improve the circulation of blood, allowing muscles to relax and take in the oxygen needed to create muscle repair. As your heart rate starts to lower in the transition phase of class, it gives the body time to take in that blood flow. This assists in the recovery process at a faster rate than if you end your workout without the stretch.
7 Cool Down Exercises You Should Use After a Group Fitness Class:
#1 Cross Leg Standing Side Bend
How to- Start standing with feet hip width apart. Take left leg and step behind right foot creating a standing cross leg stance. Use left arm to push up and over the head as you contract rib to hip on the right side, creating a side bend. Rotate chest open to avoiding rounding the back. Breath deep and hold for approximately 30-60 seconds. Switch and repeat on the opposite side. Feel the Stretch: Hip, TFL, Serratus Anterior, Obliques.
#2 Standing cat/cow with arm variation:
How to-Start standing with feet hip width apart. Hinge from hips and place hands on quads. Start from tailbone and articulate the spine into flexion, lifting from the back and sides of the ribs. Hold in flexion for 3 or 4 breaths before beginning again to articulate through the spine, this time moving into spinal extension. Let the extension come from the thoracic spine and broaden the collar bone to open through the chest. Hold again for a few breaths before starting to flow from the flexion to extension.
Use hands on thighs for support if needed or deepen the stretch by releasing hands towards floor during spinal flexion creating energy in the arms and out through fingertips as spine moves into flexion. As the spine moves into extension let arms reach back behind the body in shoulder extension, creating a deeper stretch through the anterior upper chain of body. Feel the Stretch: Spine, Chest, Shoulders.
#3 Split Stance Forward Fold:
How to- Start standing with feet hip width apart. Step one leg back, making sure to keep toes pointing in the same direction creating a staggered stance. Hinge forward from hips making sure to keep hips squared up to the floor, reaching crown of the head forward and maintaining a long neutral spine. Fold only as far as needed to feel the first sensation of stretch through the front hamstring. Pause and breath, holding for 30-60 seconds. Step feet together and repeat on other side. Feel the Stretch: Hamstrings
#4 Thoracic twist and Needle Thread:
How to- Start in an all 4’s position with hips over knees and shoulder, elbows and wrists stacked. Keep spine neutral as right arm comes behind head. Open chest and twist open to the right side stretching through the chest and shoulder. Hold for 3 or 4 breaths. Release right arm from behind the head and let it thread under the left arm. Take knees wider and sink hips back towards heels. Hold for 3 or 4 breaths and then then flow both exercises together moving from the twist to the thread. Complete 6-8 flows and then repeat on the other side. Feel the Stretch: Chest, shoulder, glutes, hips.
#5 Kneeling Lunge with Lateral Flexion:
How to- Start in a low lunge with right leg extended forward using a mat or towel under knee for support. Shift weight forward, keeping knee behind toes. Hold hip flexor stretch for 3 to 5 breaths. Shift weight back coming into a tall neutral spine. Place hands on right thigh for support taking a gentle tuck of the tail bone to deepen stretch in the quad. Take both arms and extend to ceiling, gently holding left wrist with right hand. Relax shoulders away from ears. Laterally flex the right side of the body. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Change legs and repeat on opposite side. Feel the stretch: Hip flexors, wrist, shoulder, obliques, serratus anterior, TFL.
#6 Seated Figure 4 with a Twist:
How to- Start seated with legs extended out in front of you. Bend right knee letting it fall to the outside as if creating a number 4 with your legs. Keep spine tall and hinge from the hips folding over the left extended leg. Hold 3-5 breaths. Hinge back up sitting tall, take arms out to a T. Rotate spine to the left and hinge from hips folding a second time. Let right arm come to the outside of the left leg. (Wherever it is comfortable, thigh, knee, calf, ankle.) Press outside of right hand against outside of the left leg creating a resistance in opposite directions, feeling stretch through shoulder and hamstring. Hold for 30-60 seconds keeping spine lengthened. Release stretch and repeat on other side. Feel the Stretch: Glutes, hip, hamstring, spine, shoulders, upper back.
#7 Supine Twist:
How to- Start supine (on back) hugging knees to chest. Extend left leg long while continuing to hug right knee. Allow right arm to lay long on the floor while left arm gently draws right knee across the body into a twist. Allow eye gaze to stay towards ceiling or shift head and neck to look towards right fingertips. There will be gentle pressure of the left hand on the right knee. Think support, not force! Hold 30- 60 seconds, release stretch and repeat on the other side. Feel the Stretch: Spine, hip, glute, shoulders, chest.