It’s no secret that today’s class-goers are short on time and love to find a workout that gets it all done within an hour.* But once that last set of burpees is complete, students often feel like they’ve put in their time and start packing up — even when you try to encourage them to stay and stretch.
You know the importance of stretching after class, but how can you impart this on your students? “Flexibility training is an important, yet often overlooked component of fitness,” explains Jessica Matthews, M.S., senior advisor for health and fitness education for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). “The reality is, stretching serves an important purpose in improving overall function, dramatically improving how we move and positively enhancing overall quality of life. Flexibility exercises are most effective when the body is warm, such as following cardiorespiratory or resistance exercise,” she explains.
Communicating the importance of stretching to your students is key – after all, you may be asking them to make the decision between stretching and the extra five minutes they use to do a Starbucks run before work or to try and beat other clients to the shower. We chatted with a few fitness instructors to learn how they help highlight the stretching portion of their classes.
The more aware your students are of what to expect from the stretching portion of class, the more likely they are to stick around. Jen Dean, founder of Fit Lovin Mama, has found that setting expectations for students makes them more willing to stay and stretch. “Right when class ends I say, ‘give me one extra minute of your time to stretch. It will greatly prevent any injury, and we can work out some tightness,” says Dean. “Usually that one to two minute promise is enough to keep students around.”
EXPLAIN THE BENEFIT OF DOING IT NOW
Maybe your students have every intention of stretching once they get home, so they don’t feel the need to do it right when class ends. But as Rebecca Weible, founder of Yo Yoga! explains, the pros of stretching immediately following the workout are crucial. “As our bodies cool down, so do our muscles, making them harder to stretch,” she says. “Stretching post-workout can help to relieve any immediate tightness, cramping or discomfort you may have felt in class.” Make this point to your class attendees before the stretch so they know how important it is to stick around and dedicate a few minutes to stretching now as opposed to later.
MAKE IT PART OF THE WORKOUT
The more you can blur the line of class ending and the stretch portion starting, the better the chance that your classroom won’t clear out once it gets started. “Stretching should not be considered a pre- or post-workout activity,” says Leslie Burwell of Forty Fifty Sexty. “Like a meal, your pre-stretch is the appetizer, the workout is the entree and the post-workout, the dessert.”
Connecting the dots on how all elements of the workout are in unison will further help your cause. “While they are in the hardest part of their exercise, promise them that the post stretch will make them feel better,” she suggests. “By staying through the end of class, let them know they’ll reduce the risk of after workout soreness, aches and pains, relieve tension from their muscles and see better lean, toned muscles and posture.”
KEEP IT FUN
Going from the high energy of the rest of class into the more relaxed portion of stretching can leave students feeling bored. Personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist Holly DelRosso says that making this part of class just as fun as the rest of your workout is essential to getting students to stay. “Instead of playing low volume music that puts people to sleep, try to talk to your class and ask them questions about how their day was, or even better, ask them what they are thankful for today,” she says. “Or go around the room and ask them, ‘Who’s your favorite superhero?'” By keeping it engaging and fun, students are less likely to check out early and stick around to socialize and stretch.
*Tip: We found that reducing class lengths to 45-55 minutes in length can increase ClassPass utilization up to 35%. Read more about how to optimize your class time lengths in our industry report!