Have you ever been in a group exercise class and seen everyone hustle out the door before the cool down stretching begins? Maybe you are even guilty yourself. But stretching is an important piece of the fitness puzzle.
Studios such as Stretch Zone, StretchLab, Racked, and The Stretch Bar are popping up across the country, offering people what some are describing as a merging of “the hands-on aspect of physical therapy with the chicness of boutique fitness classes, with the goal being to optimize the average person’s flexibility.” And it’s not just for the most athletic among us.
Rhiannon Arnett, head practitioner for Stretch Zone Stone Oak in San Antonio, Texas, says it’s even more important if you aren’t an active person. “Remember the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz?” she asks. “That’s what happens to us when we don’t move much throughout the day. Stretching is the oil that helps get us moving and helps our blood flow.”
The company’s website explains it this way: “Most people are not fully aware of their slow and steady loss of flexibility. Thanks to the modern sedentary lifestyle, starting around 30 something most lose flexibility at an average rate of 1 percent a year. The cumulative repetition of strains and microstresses compounded over time can cause muscles to become glued together. This “glue,” or scar tissue, tightens the surrounding tissue and inhibits our range of motion. It doesn’t take many years until the snowballing loss of flexibility ages you.”
Thanks to the modern sedentary lifestyle, starting around 30 something most lose flexibility at an average rate of 1 percent a year.
Not only can it age you, but a lack of flexibility can result in a host of other problems, such as poor posture, lack of balance, and a limited range of motion, all of which makes a body more susceptible to injury. To counter all that, you have to stretch. And not just a little.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a stretching regimen three times per week. And you definitely don’t need to go to a fancy boutique to do it. Online yoga classes are a good place to start — so are these trainer-recommended stretches you can do in your living room.
But if you do want some assistance from a place like Stretch Zone, here’s what you can expect: You will lie on a table while a trained practitioner presses and pulls various parts of your body, breaking up that glue and lengthening muscles. Along the way, the practitioner will gauge your comfort level, helping you safely stretch more deeply than perhaps you would on your own. Some places stabilize your body by strapping you to the table; others do not.
Results happen faster with assisted stretching, according to practitioners, but even more than just the physical benefits of increased flexibility, improved range of motion, and decreased pain, Arnett believes that there are bigger results, especially for women. “Women tend to hold stress in our heads, necks, and lower backs,” she says.
“Stretching allows us to relieve stress not just physically, but also mentally by giving us the opportunity to become in tune with where we hold our stress and allow us to detox that area of our body. We are able to focus on ourselves for a few minutes during our day, become aware of our breathing, and really take care of ourselves in a much needed way.”