You may go to yoga or Pilates as a supplement to your running, but what about a stretching class? Stretch studios are a rising trend — and everyone is hoping to reap the benefits. As a runner, should you schedule an appointment at your nearest location, and will it actually benefit you in the long term?
We found out exactly what to expect and what — if any — benefits you’ll actually get, so you don’t have to wonder any longer.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT A STRETCH STUDIO
The concept of a stretch studio may sound like physical therapy, but you’ll actually find yourself in the hands of a stretch therapist, instead. This doesn’t mean they don’t have training, however.
Hakika DuBose, founder and CEO of Kika Stretch Studios, explains that at her studio, stretch coaches have to be certified in a prior form of bodywork. This may include massage therapy, personal training or even a bachelor’s degree in exercise science or dance. They are provided hands-on training before working with clients.
During your first session, clients are evaluated and provide a full health history, so therapists can determine if you have any injuries or pre-existing conditions they should be aware of. Then, after discussing your activity level and goals, therapists can visually assess what needs to be worked on.
“From there the stretch therapist performs a highly personalized one-on-one stretch to address the findings in both the assessment and the information shared by the client,” explains Lisa Schneider, a marathoner who works at LYMBR, a stretch studio with multiple locations in the Northeast. “Throughout the first series of stretches, the therapist is continuing to evaluate the body based on what they feel as they take the client through each stretch movement.”
Of course, your activity level and goals are kept in mind from session-to-session, but as is with life, what needs to actually be stretched and worked on varies. That is why you can expect no two sessions to be the same. Additionally, guidance is provided for stretches you can do outside of the studio to help you reach maximum performance.
“Each session follows the same method but changes due to what the client needs that day,” notes DuBose. “We focus more attention on what needs to be released that day, tension wise.”
Schneider echoes that sentiment, sharing that at LYMBR, no two sessions are ever the same. You won’t be provided a blanket stretching protocol. Not only do they go by what they personally see and feel, but the client’s feedback is considered, as well. “Our therapists have more than 700 stretches which they have mastered over 150 hours of training, so they can truly personalize each session,” she adds.
HOW RUNNERS CAN MAKE THE MOST OF SESSIONS
First and foremost, runners can make the most out of sessions by being completely upfront and honest during the initial evaluation. From there, working with your therapist and following any instructions they provide for outside of the studio helps you get the most out of what you do inside of the studio. Your whole program is assembled with the goal of flexibility and health in mind, and what you do both inside and outside the studio is designed to help you achieve that.
“Having a balanced body is crucial for runners; imbalances can lead to injury or less efficient running,” explains Schneider. “We always recommend clients do stretching on their own at home, though there is only so much you can stretch certain muscles without the proper stabilization and guidance from our team. Some stretches are impossible to perform effectively and properly without a LYMBR therapist.”
This is why your therapist provides basic stretches you can (and should) do at home, for a deeper stretch to be achieved in the studio. You’ll want to ask how many sessions you need per week (though the consensus seems to be 1–2 times weekly).
Heather Wilson, a professional runner and stretch therapist at LYMBR, shares that it wasn’t until coming to a stretch studio that she learned the importance of it. She notes that she went through the motions of stretching without realizing there were specific muscles she should be isolating (and the benefit she would get from it).
“I was not necessarily isolating the muscles that I specifically needed to target to increase performance or aid in recovery.” notes Wilson, who is currently training for the 2020 Olympic trials. “It is common for runners to blindly follow the same generic stretches for runners, but every runner is a unique athlete with unique biomechanics, workout regimens, muscle imbalances and work lives.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
You don’t have to go to a stretch studio. You can be a runner and never step foot in there. But, if you find yourself lost when it comes to stretching or find yourself with areas that are commonly tight, it definitely can’t hurt to book a session and see what a stretch therapist can do for you. Even if you only go once, you can get a glimpse at what imbalances a trained eye may see and get a few ideas on how to address any chronic issues you may have.
“Assisted stretching truly has the power to change your life,” concludes DuBose “This is because it helps remove built up tension that usually makes you feel uncomfortable. When you are able to feel comfortable again, you enjoy life more than you ever did before. That’s what assisted stretching can do for you.”