The Most Important Track Of All
We always talk about how effective or challenging certain tracks are, but have you ever given thought to whether or not there's any one track in the BodyPump routine that matters more than the others? In other words, of the ten tracks we spin every session, does one emerge as being so important that no BodyPump attendee should miss it?

I'm talking about track #10 - the cooldown/stretch. Maybe it's because we often refer to it simply as "The Cooldown". Or maybe it's because it's the last track in the sequence. Whatever the reason, it seems to have sunk so low in the minds of many BodyPump attendees that they simply pack their stuff up and head for the doors before it even starts.

So, when was the last time you saw a gym offer a class devoted entirely to back and hamstrings? Or biceps? And can you honestly say that triceps are important enough to land a track in every group fitness class your gym offers? Me neither. But I bet your gym does offer a class devoted entirely to stretching, and I'm certain there isn't a class on the schedule that doesn't include a cooldown/stretch.

My point is simple: If stretching is so important that gyms routinely offer entire classes on the subject, and if it matters so much that you can count on it showing up in every group fitness class, doesn't the BodyPump cooldown/stretch merit serious consideration as one of the most important tracks in the entire routine?

And if that weren't enough, consider this - if you routinely miss, say, the squats track, I seriously doubt you're risking any major injury. But the cooldown/stretch? That's another story. Ask around the room sometime before class and I bet you won't get very far before someone gives you and earful about their painful recovery from an exercise-related injury. The sad fact is that many of these injuries could've been prevented by proper stretching. I'm no sports physiologist, but I do recognize that the effects of not stretching after exercise can become cumulative - and that it gets worse as you age (yes, people in your 20's, believe it or not you are aging - right along with the rest of us!)

It's no surprise that the oldest and wisest among group fitness participants make it a point not only to stick around for the entire cooldown/stretch - but also to stay focused on the routine during the entire track. So how can instructors help all class attendees avoid getting injured from not having taken this part of the class serious enough?
  • Stop calling it "The Cooldown" - Yes, it is a cooldown, but more importantly it's a stretching routine. It's easy to skip when an attendee comes to believe that their shower or the ride back to work/home is their "cooldown". Refer to it as "Stretching" or "The Cooldown Stretch".

  • Discuss it during Prime Time - That's usually during some of the midway tracks, when people are still focused and not looking for the door. Give a 30-second mention to the fact that the final track is one of the most important, and remind people that the ride back to work or home isn't a cooldown stretch.

  • Be an example - If you truly believe in the importance of this track - and you should - then don't just go through the motions. Make certain you present the cooldown/stretch with the same level of quality that you bring to your favorite chest or biceps track. Chances are you became an instructor because you wanted to help people in some way - doesn't that include helping them avoid injury as well?
So, is the cooldown/stretch one of the most important tracks - if not the most important track? Click the comments link below and have your say!
6 Comment(s):
On 05 December, 2005, Blogger reymond said...

Personally, I think that's the best part of the entire work out. It feels so good to stretch my arms, back and legs and feel the muscle relaxes. It clears the mind and it conditions the body.

Our instructors always encourage us to stay for the cooldown/ stretching, but of course they can't make the members to stay. At least they always adviced for those who had to leave early to do stretching by themselves.

It's good to stretch. I think that's the best part of the work out. Once I enjoyed it too much I didn't realize that everyone were already on their feet while I was still lying on the floor, rotating my ankle!

Plus the music is so relaxing. My fave. is "Out of Reach" by Gabrielle and "Vedi, Maria" - Emma Shapplin -Check out Pipera's site about Vedi maria:

On 07 December, 2005, Blogger pipera said...

I know tons of people that skip the abs and also stretch part of the class.

I like the nice and slow cooldown tracks that allow participants to just relax after the class "My Immortal" is a good one and Verdi Maria is another. I like Endless Love "Diana Ross and Lionel Ritchie" from 35 that one just washes over you and and the end a job well done. And "With Arms Wide Open" from 38. Thank you from 42 is a good one to stretch to. When you believe Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston from release 30 is a nice track as well.

In Bodybalance Emma Barry said in one of the videos "Relaxation and Meditation" are the best part of the class. It is the same in Bodybalance as well most leave after track 9 and miss the best part of the class. How is it in the USA in Bodybalance? Do they leave after track 9?

On 08 December, 2005, Anonymous Linda said...

I'm not sure I'd term it the best, but I've never left before finishing the stretch at the end of Pump.

As for BodyBalance, very few in my classes leave during the meditation/relaxation. One woman tells the story of when she first did Flow and she found herself thinking "I don't have time for this..." and realized that because she didn't have time was the reason it was important for her to stay and fully relax. She thinks of it as the reason she comes to do the rest of the class.

On 13 December, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a Bodypump instructor with a background in sport & exercise science. Although the cooldown/stretch is a beneficial (and welcome!) part of the class I feel most of the stretches are performed too quickly. There's too much emphasis on incorporating the moves to the music, at the expense of fully stretching muscles through their range of movement.

Frequently I see bent legs for a lying hamstring stretch, with no time to correct particpants before moving on to the next 8 count stretch. I used to advise ppl to move into another area of the gym / studio to stretch afterwards, as the pre-choreographed ones are way too short to aid flexibility.

Then I thought, hell I can do better than that, so I now replace the offical cooldowns with my own track so stretches can be held for longer. I keep it to 5mins and omit the 'drama' stretches, focusing on the areas that are going to feel it most in the next 48hrs. It's still relaxing and a wind-down to the class.

Of note also - there's no conclusive scientific research that stretching reduces muscle soreness OR prevents injury (most instructors are ill-informed and believe from unsubstantiated sources that it does!). As instructors perhaps we should focus on flexibility being paramount during the cooldown, not soreness/injury prevention.

On 23 December, 2005, Blogger Lingy said...

ditto! it is annoying for people to leave during the stretch track.. even i, only an irregular bodypump participant see the point of the final track.. i'd understand that the instructors would feel even more annoyed with this, and especially there were cases where people dropped weights on others who are stretching.. so so inconsiderate..

and to linda.. i leave during the relaxation track of balance because i just simply have to, duty calls at, i'd love to stay back.. besides, the classes kinda run late on that particular day 8-(

On 06 May, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! Im Sally, a Body Pump instructor from the UK.

Some of the clubs I work at have introduced a rule stopping partcipants from packing away before the end of class on Health and Safety grounds, just incase someone drops a weight on another participant whilst they are still laying on the ground stretching. This encourages most people to stay until the end of class and complete their stretches. If someone does need to leave early, they come and tell the instructor and arrange for someone else to pack away for them. Seems to work quite well!


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