Marvel fans have finally been presented with Avengers: Endgame, the epic finale to a decade-long series of 22 massively popular superhero movies — and naturally, the only thing people can talk about is how damn long the film is, clocking in at three hours and one minute.
The main concern most viewers have is when to take a bathroom break, which is reasonable considering the average person will probably have to pee within that three-hour window, especially after chugging a colossal $10 movie-theater Cola.
But one other thing worth considering as you prepare for the long-winded flick is how those shitty front-row seats (people bought tickets for this early, yo) are going to screw up your body, since you’ll have to crane your neck the whole time.
Your legs are also bound to go numb or stiff at some point during those three hours. “My problem is always my legs,” says my colleague, film critic Tim Grierson, who went to the Avengers: Endgame premiere. “There’s not enough damn legroom, so I have to shift my legs to one side or the other of the seat in front of me. I basically sat sideways for the second half of the movie.”
To help you stay comfortable during Avengers: Endgame — and more importantly, be able to actually get up and walk out of the theater when the movie’s over — I asked chiropractor Keith Overland — and Grierson — for some tips to keep all your body parts feeling fresh.
First, though, Overland recommends a few preventative measures that you can take before heading into the theater, the first simply being that you should wear comfortable clothing, preferably something loose and baggy that doesn’t put pressure on your muscles. The second tip, however, is a little less obvious. “Muscles that are dehydrated tend to get sore a little bit quicker,” Overland explains. “So you want to limit your caffeine intake, since caffeine will increase dehydration — and as we all know, when you go into movie theaters, they like to promote these gargantuan sodas and soft drinks that are very high in caffeine. For a very long movie, it makes sense to avoid those and be a little bit more focused on water or something else that really doesn’t have high caffeine.”
With that in mind, let’s break down how to keep your various body parts nice and limber during this long-ass movie.
How to Protect (and Stretch) Your Neck
First, Overland suggests using one of those U-shaped neck pillows, especially if you happen to be sitting toward the front. If you don’t have one, he says you can use a makeshift one made from a rolled-up towel. “When you use those, you’re really supporting your neck significantly when you’re looking up for long periods of time,” Overland says. “I’d be willing to have people look at me funny to save my neck a little bit of discomfort.”
If you don’t bring one of these pillows, Overland recommends a few simple stretches that you can do in the theater both before and after your neck gets stiff. “We like to suggest people do something called the neck roll,” he says. “First, they roll it from side to side, and then they roll it from front to back. They do it very slowly, about four or five times, and that will help maintain the mobility and help keep it more flexible than letting it slowly tighten up over time.”
If your shoulders and lower neck also get sore, Overland recommends shrugging your shoulders up toward your ears, then rolling them forward and backward. “You’re essentially moving them around in wide circles, and that really does a nice job at creating mobility and flexibility in the area, which slows down the tightening,” he says. If you happen to know the person in the next seat over, you can also try stretching your arms across your chest, one at a time.
How to Protect (and Stretch) Your Lower Back and Butt
Similar to neck pillows, Overland suggest bringing a throw pillow from your couch (or again, a rolled-up towel) to put in the small of your lower back. “That will go a long way when you’re sitting for hours and hours,” he says. “What I often find when you’re sitting for a long time — when you put it in for 15 or 20 minutes, then you take it out and put it on your lap for a couple minutes, then you put it back in — putting it in and out is very helpful, because it changes the angle of the back and allows it to move a little bit.”
As far as stretches go, Overland recommends pulling your knees, one at a time, toward your chest for three or four seconds each. “That will give you a little more mobility in your lower back,” he says.
“If you find that there are a few seconds during a boring scene that you don’t need to watch, reaching down very quickly like you’re picking up something from the floor (so your neighbors won’t think you’re stealing) and grabbing your shins, pulling your back down, letting your hips roll down and letting your back stretch out that way — you really only have to hold that for five seconds,” Overland continues. “That gives a nice pulling, sort of stretching motion in the lower back muscles.”
Moving on to your ass muscles, Overland first recommends crossing your legs and pulling your knees toward your chest, one at a time. “My second option for that is to do what we call buttocks squeezes, where if you contract the muscle and tighten the muscle, and then relax, it actually loosens up,” he says. “You take your butt and just squeeze the butt cheek muscles really tight together, hold it for five seconds, relax and then repeat this a couple times.”
How to Protect (and Stretch) Your Legs and Feet
As Grierson mentioned earlier, the legs are a particularly troublesome spot for him during movies. “Since I have long legs, a seat at the end of the row is crucial,” he says. “I need some place to stick my legs during a long movie.” Overland seconds this approach, saying being able to stretch your legs forward is a simple way to keep them from tightening up.
However, we all know that having a lot of legroom is a luxury in movie theaters, so Overland has some simple stretches to make up for it. “We do ankle circles,” he says. “So if you’re sitting there, you want to lift one foot off the ground at a time and roll your ankle in a clockwise fashion, doing four or five circles, then go counter-clockwise four or five circles. You’re basically going to help those calves stretch out a little bit and help the ankles get flexible for a little bit as well.”
The second stretch he recommends here is lifting your toes toward the ceiling for four or five seconds, then lifting your heels to the ceiling for the same amount of time. Doing this a couple times should also loosen up your calves and ankles.
Once you’re done with all these stretches, you’ll only have a whole two hours and 55 minutes of movie to go. I just wish we’d known all this before sending our guy to go watch all 22 movies back to back in a single 59-hour sitting.