What it is: StretchLab is a hands-on, assisted stretch session in which a trained Flexologist moves you through a series of stretches. You can choose to work all of your muscle groups or target a specific area. Because you remain passive, you’re able to get a deeper stretch with assistance than you would on your own.
What it’s supposed to do: According to Kyle Hall, manager of StretchLab Calhoun, deep stretching decreases the risk of muscle and joint pain, improves mobility and can help prevent injuries. Assisted stretching is often used as a supplement to physical therapy, massage therapy or chiropractic care, especially when returning to full functionality after an injury.
Trial run: When I’m done with my daily workouts, I regularly do a good, oh, 30 seconds of stretching. Of course, that’s not enough: I’m always sore. I know I’d feel better if I could get myself to stretch more, but it’s a struggle for me. That’s why I decided to give assisted stretching a try.
The Calhoun Village location (in the Minneapolis strip mall that contains Rustica bakery and a Barnes & Noble) is a compact, open room with 10 padded benches. My Flexologist, Hunter Schwietz, led me to one of the benches and explained that we’d be moving through 12 different stretches.
He started by warming up my legs, then my arms, moving them in a gentle, circular motion. Then he started working from large muscles to small, taking one leg at a time, moving it slowly into a stretch position, which he held for a few seconds. Then he released it and repeated the same stretch twice more, going a bit deeper each time. At the end of the 25-minute session, I was wishing I had signed up for the longer 50-minute one.
What it’s like: Once I got used to someone else manipulating my legs, arms, shoulder and neck, it was surprisingly relaxing. With Schwietz’s help, I was able to stretch more deeply and hold those stretches longer. Plus, going to StretchLab was more like a visit to the massage therapist or the chiropractor than a CrossFit or Orange Theory gym. As Hall said, “It’s not a workout studio; it’s a recovery studio.”
Do: Relax. The whole idea is to let your Flexologist do the work for you. All you need to do is follow the pro’s simple instructions on the correct positions and breathing patterns.
Don’t: Push into pain. Your instructor will explain the pain scale (1-10) and talk about what’s comfortable for you. He or she will move you slowly and carefully into and out of each stretch. A little dull pain is fine as you move deeper into a stretch, but you never want to feel a sharp, shooting pain.
Who it’s for: “Everyone can benefit from stretching,” said Hall, “some more than others.” While StretchLab has clients ranging in age from 7 to 91, most are fairly active people in their 40s to 60s and “have some sort of physical pain.”
Who it’s not for: People who don’t like to be touched and anyone suffering from a traumatic injury. In fact, StretchLab requires a clearance note from your doctor if you’re recovering from a serious injury, surgery or have recently had a hip or a knee replacement.
Hours: 6 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat. and Sun.
Locations: I visited the one at Calhoun Village (3204 W. Lake St., Mpls., firstname.lastname@example.org). There’s also a location in Plymouth (2700 Annapolis Circle N., Suite C, email@example.com).
Cost: One-time introductory sessions cost $49 for 50 minutes. After that, single sessions cost $49 for 25 minutes, $95 for 50 minutes. A monthly membership costs $149 and includes four 25-minute sessions.