The cool-down is as important as the highest hill we climb, the most challenging interval we push through and the hardest flat we race. However, to many participants the cool-down is a waste of time and a cue that class is over. Their hearts aren’t pounding, their legs aren’t burning—nothing is happening, right? Wrong! The time spent transitioning out of hard work zones and into easy breathing and pedaling zones is time well spent. The cool-down allows for recovery at the cellular level and brings the body back to safe levels for departure. Use the following techniques to keep riders in their seats.
Hit the Highlights. Review the class and ask participants how the ride made them feel. Reiterate the goals for each section and ask people if they met those goals. Discuss which parts were hardest. Was the class challenging enough? Where could they have pushed harder? Did they feel it was too challenging? How do they feel now compared with during the work phases? These questions (interspersed with the responses) will take about 3–5 minutes, and before you know it, the cool-down will be finished.
Enjoy Dessert. Tell participants that the cool-down is dessert and they’ve earned it by working hard. The next few minutes are the only time the class should feel easy. Stress that cooling down allows them to recover faster, making them better able to work out again tomorrow or the next day. This is a great time to talk with your class, not to them. Invite and encourage group conversation. Suggest a topic, such as learning each other’s names. Let participants advertise their businesses or talk about their kids or pets, but keep the discussion on a group level and prevent it becoming several one-on-one conversations. Make this time fun—something people look forward to, just like dessert at the end of a meal!
Encourage Mindfulness. Ask participants to keep some resistance beneath their pedals, just enough to feel the push point. Have them close their eyes and rest their hands gently on the handlebars. The pedal speed is controlled and comfortable, and breathing slows. Try the following script: “Check in with your body. Does one area feel more tired than another? Are there parts of your legs, back and shoulders that feel tight? Inhale, and as you exhale, release the tightness. Keep your eyes closed, and consciously relax and release into the easier motion. You have worked through any stress you brought in with you. Acknowledge the relaxed state of your fatigued body. Your stress is gone, your body is worked, and your breathing has slowed down. Inhale fully and exhale completely, circle your shoulders and relax your neck. Inhale again, and as you exhale, open your eyes and roll yourself up to an upright, seated position on the bike.”
Master the Music. Sometimes there is no need for talking. Simply introduce the cool-down; cue time, pedal and cadence; and then put on a lovely piece of music. Sometimes I choose an instrumental piece, like Mozart. Other times I play songs with a message; for example, “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban or “The Prayer” by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli. You can even play opera, such as “Nessun Dorma” sung by Pavarotti. Give your participants permission to disappear for just a few minutes into a lovely musical interlude while maintaining minimal workload. This is a gift they will be happy to receive.
Bethany Diamond is a master trainer for the Nautilus Institute and helps train other fitness professionals at regional, national and international conferences. She founded Ovarian Cycle Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding research for the early detection of ovarian cancer. For more information, visit www.ovariancycle.org.
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