Stretching has been a form of recovery since the beginning of time. Some of our introductions to stretching may have included our first grade ballet instructor strictly scolding us to plié lower, or maybe it was our football coach yelling in our ears to switch legs before practice. We have all been familiarized with stretching in one way or another, but in the last few years, Austin has seen a new wave of innovation shape the way people can relax and recover properly: assisted stretching.
As it turns out, assisted stretching actually isn’t new. According to Austin Martinez, the director of education for StretchLab, assisted stretching started with high-level athletes and has been practiced for many years.
Over the last few months, assisted stretching facilities for the everyday athlete have popped up around Austin such as Motion Stretch, Stretch Base and StretchLab.
“It started with Tom Brady and Lebron James. If you look at some articles they’ve written, they really attribute stretching to their injury prevention process,” Martinez says.
During March Madness season, we’ve all seen pro-basketball players lay on the ground to get stretched by someone else during warm-up and then play flawlessly throughout the game. They sprawl out on the court and have conversations with their teammates while a trainer twists them into a pretzel, all the while not attempting it by themselves. Could assisted stretching possibly be the key to becoming a better, optimally functioning athlete?
Stretching is often overlooked and people don’t do it everyday, Martinez says.
“Truly, our concept is to bring the widely known benefits of stretching to everyone,” he says. “We realize how important stretching is for everyone, especially with today’s lifestyle of not moving enough. We need to get our bodies moving more and ultimately create a better, healthier lifestyle.”
Martinez also says adding a consistent mobilization program into your daily habits now can positively impact your future.
At StretchLab, professionals have to go through 60-70 hours of training to become a flexologist, which is someone who is trained online and in workshops, specifically learning the concepts of stretching, flexibility and mobility.
Depending on the assisted stretching facility, there are different levels of education required to be a stretcher. At Stretch Base, stretchers are required to have a degree in kinesiology, athletic training or pre-physical therapy as well as attend a three-day training, says the director of the Stretch Base program, Robert Venturini.
The main purpose of having extensive training is to make sure stretchers not only stretch their clients, but also educate and provide resources on how to resolve their client’s issues, Venturini says.
Not simply stretching, but assisted stretching is beneficial, because it can help those who don’t know how to stretch properly, such as knowing how long to hold a stretch and what type of stretches to do to balance out the body correctly, Martinez says.
“True stretching should be focused on looking at imbalances,” he says.
StretchLab focuses on areas that lack flexibility rather than areas that already have a lot of flexibility, because focusing only on areas that already have a lot of mobility can worsen that imbalance.
“Smart training and then ultimately having a recovery process in place have been shown time and time again to be the best formula for success,” Martinez adds.
According to chiropractor Dr. Brian Clark, most people have a favorite stretch or two that they enjoy but often avoid other types of stretches if they don’t like doing them.
“Those are probably the stretches and movements that we need the most,” Clark says.
After visiting the chiropractor in high school, Clark fell in love with the profession and the idea that we can align our bodies and heal ourselves.
Clark says since most of our healing is done through the nervous system, people need a properly functioning nervous system to provide that nerve flow and energy to heal.
“The same thing is with blood flow — we need blood flow to areas to heal. So, that’s how stretching and getting chiropractic adjustments really helps optimize that flow of energy to areas so we can heal,” Clark says.
If someone is not going to stretch on their own, it can be really helpful to have someone else help them out.
Many people have daily habits such as sitting at a computer, driving or even sleeping a certain way that can put bodies into an unhealthy pattern.
“Sometimes we need someone else to kind of help give us a push back in the right direction,” Clark says, “and that’s when it’s great to seek out a professional.”
Having a good mobility and stretching routine is important, because our bodies need to be taken into all ranges of motion, says Dr. Samantha Pittsford, a doctor of physical therapy at Austin Sports Medicine.
“We’re not the movers that we historically have been in the past. It’s creating a whole new host of issues in terms of flexibility and mobility,” Pittsford says.
Remaining in the same position for too long can lead to pain and stress on ligaments and joints. Pittsford says she sees a lot of chronic back pain due to poor pelvic mobility and poor hamstring and hip flexor flexibility, which is from being sedentary in seated positions for too long.
Pittsford says injuries can occur when there is an absence of mobility. Staying mobile is the key.
Pittsford and Clark both recommend a standing desk to combat becoming too sedentary. Even setting a timer to get up once an hour and walk around can be beneficial.
A lot of people’s tightness comes from their central nervous system, and that’s why the fitness industry is gearing more toward mobilizing and prepping the body.
“I think that’s something really important to think about,” Pittsford says.
A: 13018 US-183
StretchLab (Multiple Locations)
A: 1414 S Lamar Blvd Ste 105
Motion Stretch Studio
A: A, 5701 W Slaughter Lane #120
Restore: Stretch Base (Multiple Locations)
A: B, 4301 W William Cannon Drive #146