“Floors, treads, rowers, everybody, shut it down!”
After 55 minutes of sweating it out in an Orangetheory class, it’s so tempting to pack up your things and jet as soon as your coach makes that one final call.
After you air-five your neighbors and take a swig of your H20, the best next step you can take for your mind and body is to stick around for the last five minutes, known as the Mobility Matrix, or flexibility block.
“Previously, the benefits of stretching and flexibility were based on perceived notions, but now there’s data-backed research that supports flexibility training,” says Stephen Marcotte, Workout Design & Experience Manager at Orangetheory. “Some of the benefits include a decreased risk of injury, prevention and/or correction of muscle imbalances, and increased range of motion. If you’re not incorporating some sort of flexibility/mobility training into your workouts, you’re essentially betting against the odds,” he explains.
In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends stretching and flexibility training at least two to three times a week, and they say daily stretching is most effective.
It’s such an important part of a well-rounded exercise program for all adults that at the beginning of 2022 Orangetheory launched a new cool-down experience to better enhance this small but essential closeout of the workout. You’ll see five different components: a breathwork graphic, bridge movement, improved stretch exercises, a more efficient method for class announcement delivery, and a customizable finisher.
Still think you’d rather skip the end? Here, we break down just five of the many reasons it’s so good for you to stay.
1. It addresses upper and lower cross syndrome.
“One common thing we see among adults is upper and lower cross syndrome,” says Marcotte. So often, the muscles on the front side of our bodies are overactive and the muscles on the back side of our bodies are underactive. Think about all the time we spend sitting (driving, at a desk, on the couch) and the amount of time we spend looking down (at devices), he explains.
“This imbalance leads to poor posture, which can have a trickle-down effect that leads to poor movement patterns, muscular imbalances and potential injury in the long run. So, we consulted with a member of our Medical Advisory Board and developed new flexibility routines to address these issues.” (By the way, here are five exercises to improve your posture.)
2. It provides a nice transition from the high-intensity work you did inside the studio to your life outside of the studio.
“We also really wanted to ‘put a bow’ on the end of the workout experience for our members as they transition back to their daily routine,” says Marcotte. To that end, the team developed the new Mobility Matrix to help members’ bodies transition from the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system to the “rest and recover” parasympathetic nervous system.
“For 55 minutes, I was working hard, the music was loud, the energy was great. The five minutes of cool-down really brings me back to even-keel so I can get back to the rest of my day feeling good,” he adds.
3. It improves blood flow and prevents trigger points.
By skipping the flexibility block, you risk developing trigger points within your muscles, says Aaron Santiso, physical therapist and member of the medical advisory board at Orangetheory. He explains: “A trigger point within a muscle is where a portion of a muscle becomes stuck in the contraction phase and receives little blood flow.” (Blood flow is what helps our muscles heal and recover from the microscopic tears caused by working out.) “Now, if a muscle cannot receive blood flow, it begins to develop chemicals that the brain perceives as pain. And if a trigger point exists over a prolonged period, it can begin to refer pain in all areas around the original trigger.”
How do we help prevent that pain and trigger points from occurring? You guessed it. “One proven way is to participate in Orangetheory’s cool-down and flexibility block. Provide a stretch to your muscles to improve blood flow, and allow the body to begin its recovery process immediately while the muscles are still warm,” he says.
4. It prevents injuries — and helps you move on from them.
It’s hard to feel confident and safe after coming back from an injury. But the flexibility block addresses both of those issues. Take it from Bruce Parker, an Orangetheory member in Baton Rouge.
“Before my experience with sciatica last year during the 1-mile run, I’d more often than not blow off the flexibility portion of class. Well, two months of PT (and plenty of stretching) later I was able to return to class, and I now stretch religiously after every workout. Just recently, I was able to start jogging and, shockingly, I was able to complete the entire 12-minute run.”
5. It also gives you time to hear from your coach on some pretty important things.
Upcoming benchmarks and challenges, studio news, recovery advice for outside of the studio (sleep, nutrition, hydration!) … you hear a lot of great information from your coach during those final five minutes. But in addition to announcements and education, it’s also the perfect time for community and camaraderie-building.
Orangetheory Coach Toni Howard in upstate New York says this time allows coaches to look members in the eye and let them know, “I saw you. I saw how hard you worked today. I saw you increase your speed. I saw the look that said you wanted to quit, but you didn’t.” We are only as strong as the community we build together, she says. “Stay to the end, let the coaches 'see you,' let your Orangetheory community see you. We start together, we end together.”
“It’s important to treat the flexibility block as part of the workout — not only to stretch your muscles, but also to give your heart rate an opportunity to safely lower before leaving the studio,” says Brittany Masteller, Orangetheory’s Research Scientist.
In summary, those last five minutes pack a pretty powerful punch: They’re good for your mental clarity, cardiorespiratory system, range of motion in your major muscle-tendon groups, lactic acid build-up, confidence, posture, and so much more.
And who doesn’t want all that?