The class is coming to an end. The instructor is taking their class through the cool-down stretches while a few patrons are making an early get-away. The instructor does the final goodbye and then starts packing up themselves. They see a note from management asking them to remind their patrons of something else that is happening in the club or of a housekeeping matter. Hurriedly they turn their microphone back on to announce it in the flurry of everyone packing up/ leaving.
When it comes to cool-downs and class endings it may be tempting to see them a bit like how I described class beginnings and class introductions as being ‘a bit of fluff.’ Granted, the cool-down and/ or stretch are a duty of care in most classes, but it can be easy for both us and the participants to see the ‘real’ class as being finished by the time the cool-down/stretch track kicks in. However, does this really need to be the case? Should it be the case? Generally, people remember the beginning and the end of something the best, whether it is a story (in any medium), a speech or an event, so how can we ensure that people are getting the best experience possible at a time that they are going to remember? In this article I’m going to explore some of the cooldowns I’ve done in aqua fitness and how I’ve made them something memorable. While I will be focused on what I do in the pool there is no reason why these can’t be adapted to land classes – I for one use some of these techniques at the end of my cycle classes, too.
Consider adding something special to your cool-down each week – whether that’s a different type of
stretch or something that will bring a smile to your patrons’ faces.
For example, every now and then I will include what I have dubbed for in simple terms as ‘Foot Pilates’. It’s actually a German style of training known as Feldenkrais but that takes too long to explain, especially when microphones and acoustics can be questionable in pool halls. I came across the concept during my study time on Saturday afternoons and the first time I delivered it I wondered how my classes would react. I told them if they didn’t like it then they could always tell me to go out for coffee on Saturday afternoons rather than study – thus far no one has told me to indulge my caffeine habit (I’m disappointed!). Instead, the response was really positive. On the weeks I deliver it now I have people raving about how much they like it and asking me to include it more often.
One of the tracks that I use for cool-downs is ‘Swan Lake.’ Right at the end I will throw in a tourner (turn) with one arm above the head and one in front of the hip, allowing my patrons to bring out their inner ballerina/ danseur (male ballet dancer). The piece of music, along with the ballet move come together to make it an ending that is different and that will be remembered.
There are times when I will have introduced a new move, or brought back a move that we haven’t used in a while, during my class but the time to do a long explanation of the move hasn’t been when I’ve been teaching it. Sometimes that is because the move is a little complex, but more often than not it is because the acoustics in the pool space are such that doing much more than very basic verbal cues (and relying on visual cues for the majority of my delivery) is going to leave people asking, ‘What did she say?’ – especially when the music is pumping, too. So, I’ll save the explanation of the benefits of the move (whether they be strength, balance, flexibility, mental health – I rarely focus on the ‘looking good’ benefits of a move as I want the focus to be on the health and wellness benefits of exercise) until the end when the music is a bit quieter and it is easier for people to listen.
99% of the time the final track in my aqua fitness class is a party/ dance track and is sort of designed to be a climax to the class. Sometimes I’ll have a dress up, such as a sombrero for a Latina track; a Stetson for a country and western track; or a flower garland when I use the song ‘Kokomo’ by the Beach Boys. When I teach ‘Kokomo’ I’ll get my patrons doing a move that looks like they are playing the drums with their arms. Initially I’ll teach it with the hands as basic fists, but then I’ll show a variation which has the thumb between the first and second fingers, creating a little more drag in the water when it goes through the water. The variation is sign that is used in Caribbean Sign Language for the country ‘Jamaica.’ So, during the cool-down I will explain this.
Most classes don’t happen in a vacuum, they are usually part of a larger entity that will often have announcements that they will want us to make. These can range from information about pool closures due to carnivals, to promotions that are coming up to general housekeeping requests. When making these announcements it can be tempting to just read the information that has been left on the sound system or that has been sent to us by email verbatim. However, this rarely has much of an impact. When making such announcements I like to tie them into something that I’m already talking about. For example, if there’s a ‘bring a friend’ promotion that I’ve been asked to mention I would look to make use of my knowledge of Auslan and make the sign for friend whilst explaining what it meant and then saying, ‘Speaking of friends…,’ and make the announcement from there.
If the information I’ve been asked to convey is more along the housekeeping lines it can good to have the ‘why’ up my sleeve, but it can also be memorable to make it funny. For example, from time to time I’ve had to convey to my patrons that, while it’s nice to have their assistance with my manual handling jobs (ie: moving trolleys of dumb-bells around or getting my aqua frame out for me) it is a job that I am required to do. I’ll explain that is because if I hurt my back or my knees then there’s Work-safe, whereas if they hurt themselves then it is a lot more complicated. I then adopt a bit of a Gollum from Lord of the Rings voice and say, ‘yes, it’s my job, my precious, my precious!’ Naturally it is quite funny but the information has been gotten across and people generally appreciate it when I show that I want to keep them safe.
While not exhaustive as far as the possibilities for ‘dressing up’ the end of a class is concerned, I hope this article has conveyed that there are ways to make the cool-down/ stretch part of the class something that people will want to stick around for because otherwise they will be missing out. I sometimes think of it as being like the credits of a movie which have out-takes or epilogue scenes throughout them.
In doing this make sure that you play to your strengths and interests. I’ve demonstrated in this article how I use my enjoyment of travel and enthusiasm for languages as part of how I dress up my cool-downs. In return this gives my patrons something to talk to me about afterwards if it is something that they have in common which in turn gives me an outlet for rapport building. This allows me to then tailor my sessions to my patrons that bit more thus connecting with them even further. It could be said, to quote Steve Jensen, that dressing up the cool-down allow me to be ‘in the people business, with fitness as my product.’
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