Put aside, Pilates.
There’s another health/wellness/fitness trend in South Louisiana. It’s called assisted stretching, and there are now many outlets in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Lafayette devoted to the method or at least including such sessions among their offerings.
The name is somewhat self-explanatory: unlike stretching, say, before a run, assisted stretching involves a trained practitioner stretching your body for you beyond what you can achieve on your own.
Individualized stretching plans focus on specific problem areas or can cover muscles from head to toe with 26 different stretches. Clients range from nimble teenage athletes to less active retirees, and their reasons for going 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 Towne Center, 7350 Jefferson Highway, in June.
Miller suffered from significant hip aches and pains to the point of not being able to sleep at night, as well as chronic lower back issues.
“Now I can walk pain free almost every day. I can even climb stairs. I can tie my shoes, a lot of things,” Miller, a real estate foreclosure attorney, said before one of his stretches. last week.
Miller said the experience goes beyond 25- or 50-minute assisted stretching sessions.
“They give me tools to do better. It’s not just about stretching here. They show me some things I can do to help with the pain I have,” he said.
Miller said he would encourage skeptics of the new trend to give it a try.
“I mean, after the first one or two sessions, you’ll know, and I did,” he said. “I could tell very quickly that I was getting some relief, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Miller added that he is working to reach a maintenance phase, during which his sessions will be less frequent, in an effort to maintain his new mobility and flexibility.
About the process
Typically using a technique called proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, trained staff members or flexologists 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 it is still in the stretched position; and third, stretch the muscle group again.
The result? A measured increase in the extent to which the person can be stretched comfortably, resulting in increased flexibility and range of motion.
“It should never hurt,” said Calder Reed, flexologist at StretchLab.
Meagan Delatte, director and flexologist of Reed and StretchLab, makes new clients aware that they may have soreness the day after a stretch, but as they progress, these aftereffects lessen.
Beyond stretching sessions, which typically take place once or twice a week, flexologists also provide instruction on exercises that can be done at home to help a client progress towards whatever their goal. .
“Let’s say someone wants to run a marathon, we’ll help you get there,” Delatte said.
Reed said the process can not only improve an athlete’s performance, but also reduce the risk of injury.
“When you think of flexibility, you think of gymnasts and things like that. So why is it important in, say, football or baseball? If you have tight muscles all over your body, those who actually perform the ‘action have to work twice as hard as pushing against a tight muscle,’ explained Reed.
“Take a marathon sprinter, if you have super tight hamstrings, every time the quadriceps contracts to drive the leg forward, it has to pull against the hamstring, right? So not just stretching and flexing, you know, you increase hamstring flexibility, you decrease injury risk.”
Others seek assisted stretching simply to help them deal with the challenges of everyday life, according to Delatte.
“We have a man who could barely lift his leg. He is now able to 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 is able to sit up completely without our help.”
Assisted stretching can also help to:
- Posture, especially for those who work sitting at a desk all day
- Typical aches and pains
- Strength with flexibility
- A post-physical therapy plan, taking you beyond your old baseline.
The best results correlate with multiple visits each month, so membership plans are more cost-effective than one-time walk-in visits, Delatte said.
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