By Lisa Elaine Held
Let me guess, you skipped the stretch at the end of spin class because you had dinner plans? Or you’ve been running all week and swearing you’d get to yoga but instead your calves and quads are just ridiculously stiff?
While more and more people are recognizing the benefits of exercise, very few of us take (or have) the time to properly stretch out our taxed muscles.
Stretch*d—a workout studio where trained professionals stretch your body for you (yes, for you!)—wants to change that. It’s one of a few concepts popping up (like Kika Stretch and Lymbr Studios) that emphasize assisted stretching, and it’s making a big splash because of the pros behind it. Not only was it created by SLT creator Amanda Freeman and serial juice-epreneur Vanessa Chu, its “chief stretch*rs” are both highly educated fitness professionals who have worked with college and professional athletes for years.
But everyday busy people, they say, need this service just as much as athletes. “It’s an active recovery; not as indulgent as getting a massage, but feels just as good. It’s a moment to hit pause, but also be productive at the same time,” Chu says. “With each stretch, you are teaching your body how to relax, improve muscle memory, and increase flexibility.”
Should you sign up to get stretched? Here’s what you need to know.
The Benefits of Assisted Stretching
While a massage will break up knots and alleviate tightness and soreness in the short-term, the Stretch*d method is more of a long-term approach to addressing body imbalances and mobility issues for better posture, movement, and injury prevention—for people who don’t quite need physical therapy. In fact, Jeff Brannigan, the chief stretch*r who worked with me, said a lot of the stretches could be seen as “corrective exercises.”
Ideally, you’d visit on a regular basis and they’d help you work on “problem areas” while also just keeping you generally limber. Plus, Chu says, even if you are stretching on your own, you may not be doing it very effectively.
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I can attest to the fact that having someone do it for you is a totally different experience that leaves you feeling loose in a totally different way, after.
“Your body literally cannot relax in the same way, nor can you isolate the right muscles as well as you can when you have a trained Stretch*r working with you,” she says. “Plus, it feels great. Most people get bored with stretching on their own.”
What It’s Really Like
Of course, stretching on your own is free and stretch studios are pricey. At Stretch*d, a single 25-minute session costs $45; a 55-minute session is $100. They offer monthly memberships that bring those down a bit and you can also drop in for shorter sessions and pay $2 per minute (with a 15-minute minimum).
Inside, it looks like a modern fitness studio-meets-skincare spa. Dividers separate each stretching area into little booths, where what looks like a massage table is set up with a pillow and some seat belts and straps, which will be used to strap you in at various moments to hold certain positions. (Really!)
Before you start, you fill out a questionnaire that asks you to identify problem areas and then your stretcher talks it all through with you. Brannigan asked me about the tight quads and IT bands I had pointed out and my neck and back issues, and then he assessed those spots as he went, spending more time on my upper body after he determined that needed the most attention.
At the end, he told me to get up and walk around, and I felt like my whole body had gotten run out like a dishrag (in a really good way). Pain I had been experiencing on the outside of my knee, due to tight muscles in my glute and leg, was gone. He then showed me a few exercises I could do at home to work on some of the spots that were bothering me the most.
Later, I got an email from the Stretch*d “concierge.” It thanked me for “‘getting loose’ with us today!” and then provided detailed instructions, with photos, of the recommended exercises. And I honestly felt great for a couple of days after. If I had unlimited money and time, I’d personally go get stretched multiple times a week. Alas, I’d love more of either (or both), but for me it would have to be more of a treat-yourself situation. Either way, It’ll be interesting to see how other people use Stretch*d and if the trend takes off.