Push aside, Pilates.
There is another health/wellness/fitness trend taking hold in southern Louisiana. It’s called assisted stretching, and there are now several outlets in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Lafayette dedicated to this method, or at least offering such sessions.
The name is pretty self-explanatory: unlike stretching, say, before a run, assisted stretching involves a trained practitioner stretching for you, stretching your body beyond what you can achieve on your own.
Custom stretch plans focus on specific problem areas or can cover muscles from head to toe with 26 different stretches. Clients range from agile teenage athletes to less active retirees, and their reasons for following the assisted stretching route are just as varied.
A customer’s story
Patrick Miller, 69, of Baton Rouge, was one of StretchLab’s first clients when the studio opened in June at Towne Center, 7350 Jefferson Highway.
Miller suffered from severe hip pain and aches to the point that he was unable to sleep at night, along with chronic lower back issues.
“Now I can walk pain free most days. I can even climb stairs. I can tie my shoes, lots of things,” Miller, an attorney who specializes in real estate closures, said before one of his stretches last week.
Miller said the experience extends beyond the 25-minute or 50-minute assisted stretching sessions.
“They give me some tools to do better. It’s not just the stretching here. They show me some things I can do to help with the pain I’m in,” he said.
Miller said he would encourage skeptics of the new trend to just give it a try.
“I mean, after the first session or two, you’ll know, and I did,” he said. “I could tell very quickly that I got some relief and that’s the point.”
Miller added that he’s working towards reaching a maintenance phase where his meetings are less frequent, with the goal of maintaining his newfound mobility and flexibility.
About the process
Typically, trained staff or flexologists use a technique called proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation and assist the client in a three-step process that WebMD explains as follows: first stretch a muscle group; second, contract that muscle group against resistance while still in the extended position; and third, stretch the muscle group again.
The result? A measured increase in how far the person can be stretched comfortably, resulting in increased flexibility and range of motion.
“It should never hurt,” said StretchLab flexologist Calder Reed.
Meagan Delatte, Reed and StretchLab manager and flexologist, cautions first-time clients that they can feel pain the day after a stretch, but as they progress, that after-effect wears off.
In addition to stretching sessions, which typically occur once or twice a week, flexologists also offer exercises that can be performed at home to encourage a client’s progress towards their goal.
“Suppose someone wants to run a marathon, we’ll help them get there,” Delatte said.
According to Reed, the process can not only improve an athlete’s performance, but also reduce the likelihood of injury.
“When you think flexibility, think gymnasts and things like that. So why does it matter, say, football or baseball? When you have tight muscles all over your body, those actually performing the action have to work twice as hard to press against a tight muscle,” Reed explained.
“Take a marathon sprinter, if you have super tight hamstrings, the quads have to pull against the hamstring every time they contract to move the leg forward, right? So not just by stretching and bending, you know you’ll grow. By making your hamstrings flexible you reduce the risk of injury.”
Others, according to Delatte, seek assisted stretching simply to get help with the challenges of everyday life.
“We have a man who could barely lift his leg. He can now fully cross his leg and walk up his stairs without using the handrail,” she said. “We also have another member who couldn’t sit up without help. Well, now he can actually sit up completely without our help.”
Assisted stretching can also help with:
- Posture, especially for those who sit at a desk all day
- Typical aches and pains
- Strength with flexibility
- A postphysiological therapy plan that takes you beyond your previous baseline.
The best results correlate with multiple visits per month, so membership plans are more cost-effective than single, ad hoc visits, Delatte said.