Gamify the Fitness Class Cooldown

Get your group fitness class participants to stay for the cooldown with fun games.

By Steve Bergeron
Sep 24, 2019

There are 5 minutes left in your class, the energy is high, and everyone is sweating and having a great time. As you wrap up the last set, participants cheer and exchange high-fives to celebrate another awesome workout. You turn the music down to prepare for the cooldown, then you look up—and notice that people are packing up and leaving.

Sound familiar? As a certified group fitness instructor, you know how important a dedicated cooldown is, but how do you interest participants enough to build the habit of staying and reaping the rewards of those last few minutes? Try gamification, which increases interest and engagement. Gamification is basically taking a fundamental routine—such as exercise—and making a game out of it in order to maintain motivation and create a sustainable habit. A little bit of fun helps the medicine go down!

Here are three ways to gamify your next cooldown and begin to get people hooked.

See also: Create a Finale

Play a Game of Chance

One strategy for turning the same old cooldown into a fun experience is simply to add an element of random reward into the mix. Like pulling a lever on a slot machine or spinning a game wheel, this can trigger the brain’s pleasure center and keep people coming back for more.

  • Get a deck of cards or, if you’re crafty, create a game wheel out of poster board.
  • Have each card or space on the game wheel correspond to a different aspect of a good cooldown—for example, recovery breathing, mobility work, foam rolling or light partner exercises.
  • Ask one of the participants to choose a card or spin the wheel to dictate the area of focus.

Create a little buzz at the beginning of class to spark anticipation and ensure that people stick around.

Utilize Existing Apps

Attendees are already chomping at the bit to check their phones, which may be one reason why they sneak out early. So use this to your advantage! Here are some ideas for keeping people engaged:

  • If enough participants have smartwatches with a heart rate app, challenge the group to see whose heart rate comes down fastest (safely). Explain why this is important and what it indicates.
  • Use a pre-approved social sharing app and encourage people to sign up and share their workout stats. A little healthy competition can be motivating.
  • Use a meditation app with a chime and have participants meditate for 1–2 minutes at the very end.

See also: How to Help Participants Find Flow

Create a Point System

Another strategy is to create an achievement or point system for completing daily or weekly tasks. For example, assign point values to various recovery activities, such as staying for the cooldown or taking a gentle yoga class. Each time participants complete a designated activity they receive points. Define different levels, structures or “buckets,” which might include recovery as well as conditioning, strength training, nutrition, sleep, hydration, etc. This is a great way to give participants a visual reference for areas that are currently missing from their routines.

Track progress on a whiteboard or simply jot down points in a notebook or smartphone app. It’s important to keep in mind that earning points will be enough to motivate some people, while others may need a reward at the end. This doesn’t have to be expensive and can be as simple as a free session, the chance to create a music playlist for class, or even a gift card. People love to win!

Ultimately, gamification is a great way to make exercise more fun and exciting for participants who, as much as we want them to be, may not be in love with working out (yet!). And since community is built before and after class, getting people to stick around to recover is another way to build your tribe.

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Steve Bergeron

6 Comments

  1. Avatar Joann Melgar on January 10, 2020 at 11:53 am

    Seriously, the adults I’ve trained for 20 years don’t want to play games. Their fitness games are their cycling, skiing, swimming etc. Not their fitness hour.

  2. Avatar Menchu Esteban on January 13, 2020 at 7:30 pm

    As much as I like games, I don’t think most of my participants will be ok with this. I do think that we need to try to find ways to keep them through the cool down, but I don’t think this is it, at least for my classes.

  3. Avatar Hong Yiying on January 14, 2020 at 10:02 am

    Cool down stretching has its specific targets on those worked muscles and I don’t think playing a game of chance is sufficient to fulfill the purposes of cool down. And normally when the class is fun, the participants have no issue staying for the cool down.

  4. Avatar Jessica Phillips on January 17, 2020 at 10:05 pm

    I bring what I call my bag of tricks to my group training session. The bag consists of all kinds of “toys” that can be used for myofasial release. For instance I have found that a fast pitch softball works really well to roll out the hamstrings and calves. I take the balls I have in my bag and start suggesting ideas to the group and they enjoy the knowledge as well as doing something different each week.

  5. Avatar Connie Martin, MA. National Presenter, SCW, MOVE Conventions on January 21, 2020 at 2:14 am

    Most ideas are not applicable to Water Fitness. Average age is 60. They usually stay for the “Active Recovery,” however, I have enticed them to stay in the water with a “moving stretch recovery” with the promise of appointing an MVP (Most Valued Participant) whose name goes into a drawing at the end of the month for a small coffee giftcard, etc., it works for my Active Agers.

  6. Avatar Elise on May 23, 2020 at 12:31 am

    I think this is great.

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