Move aside, lunges. The stretch revolution has arrived.
Boutique stretch fitness studios like StretchLab and StretchZone, whose celebrity endorsements include former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Gwyneth Paltrow, have opened recently in shopping complexes in Carmel, Zionsville, and on the north side of Indianapolis. One frequent question has also popped up: Why pay to stretch?
The answer lies in our bodies’ limitations, according to Jordan Matthews, general manager of StretchZone’s Zionsville location. Typical solo stretches—like ones you may do before a workout—are hindered by your “stretch reflex,” the body’s way of preventing us from extending ourselves to the point of injury. That’s where assisted stretching comes in: As you relax on a padded table, a trained professional guides your body through a set of stretches that mirror small, everyday movements, gradually increasing the intensity to teach your muscles to stretch deeper than your mind believes they can.
That’s the thinking behind proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, or PNF. StretchLab’s practitioners, called flexologists, specialize in the method, which can improve range of motion and posture, increase muscle strength, and ease stress. While PNF isn’t a substitute for physical therapy, flexologists like Karolyn Wilson of StretchLab’s Ironworks location attest that it can ease discomfort.
“I have a client who’s thrilled that she can put lotion on her feet without any pain in her legs,” she says. “Even little stuff like that is powerful.”
Who can benefit from assisted stretching? Just about everyone. While Matthews’s clientele includes a former NFL offensive lineman recovering from two knee replacements and golfers looking to improve their swings, he has also worked with folks in their 70s who want to play on the floor with their grandkids without pain. Wilson treats a steady stream of clients with desk jobs seeking relief for tightness in their neck and shoulders.
Similar to any training program, results don’t happen immediately. Both StretchLab and StretchZone offer memberships in three-month increments with initial consultations and progress evaluations. The former’s memberships also include access to its app of video tutorials to practice at home. Regardless of which program you choose, it’s no stretch to say you’ll feel more limber after a few sessions.