“Hot Bod” is a weekly exploration of fitness culture and its adjacent oddities.
I’ve never been the type of completist who has the patience for a cooldown stretch after a workout. I have no doubt it’s good for me, like flossing. And yet, I can’t. As soon as the exercise video transitions from dancing or lifting weights, as soon as the instructor’s voice softens and the music tempo slows down like a frog’s heartbeat in a frozen pond, I’m out of there. I’m checking my emails, taking off my socks, gulping my water, exiting the video. I thought I’d spend the rest of my life cooldown-free, and I still ditch as soon as a stretch is suggested after a workout. But after a series of interminable, sedentary hunched-crunched slouch days, things felt very baked and fried in my body and brain. These days, so much more tension felt like it needed to be cooled off.
On a recent, particularly high-strung afternoon, after I’d been sitting all day like a wizened old stump, I had a brilliant idea. What about all those cooldowns I missed? What if I just did a bunch of those in a row? This is flawed logic, as if brushing my teeth for an hour would make amends for a skipped month.
BUT BABY, IT WORKED. It felt so good in the middle of my day. It stopped the stiffening, relaxed all the clenching. Doing five minutes of light wiggling at the tail end of an hour of exercising seemed both negligible and too long; but five minutes in the middle of endless hours of hunching around my house felt powerful and fast. The thing that I’d deemed a waste of time had always been precious; it had just been coming at the wrong moment. I needed it to limber up my stiff outer shell, not to unwind myself when I was already feeling loose and pliant.
Lucky for me, I found the perfect, classic, easy video for a stand-alone cooldown. Or I like to think it found me (via the YouTube suggested sidebar). The stretches are simple and loosening, and require almost nothing. The shoulder-pressed-to-wall situation really gets in there, but in a gentle way. The flat-back hamstring stretch is a soft killer. It’s five minutes, of course. (I still look at cooldowns that are ten minutes and think, BUT WHO HAS THE TIME?)
It’s so comforting to have this singular video to return to, this little rock to clutch. I have no decision fatigue. I have a tiny handful of return-again-and-again videos and I treasure them sincerely (one for arms, one for obliques). They are very hard to acquire. This one particularly resets me. I feel like I’ve just been ironed, folded, put nicely in a drawer. I have to tell you, though, this five-minute foray into detangling stretches is not, shockingly, a magic pill for my whole life. It doesn’t stave off my crunchy shoulder feelings for more than a few hours. It can’t fix everything, but it makes it better for a minute, and in these times, I will take it.