Stretch It Out at Stretch Lab
Deb Caruso discovers the latest sensation that’s sweeping the nation – and helping people to walk tall with increased flexibility, mobility and strength without the need to raise a sweat.
We all know the importance of stretching before and after exercise not to mention how good it feels when we take the time to stretch our body, raising our arms to the sky or bending sideways.
I am currently in a non-committed relationship with regards to regular exercise although I am constantly on-the-go and have tried everything but settled on nothing. I love a good massage to unwind all the knots I seem to get myself in, particularly when spending hours in front of a computer screen.
Spending time on the table in the hands of a trained practitioner who knows how to fix me is integral to my physical, mental and spiritual health. So when I found out about StretchLab I was super excited to think there was somewhere I could go to straighten out all my bad habits, particularly posture.
StretchLab Noosa owner Tom Hartwright has spent a lot of time playing golf, gardening and bringing up kids so understands how important stretching is to health and wellbeing.
“The great thing about stretching for me is that it allows me to look after myself and maintain my body without feeling like I’ve got to raise my heart rate or lift heavy weights,” he said.
“My wife goes to Pilates, is very health conscious and suggested this business as there’s nothing like it in Noosa.”
Originally opening in Venice Beach, California, there are about 400 StretchLab’s in America and another 300 set to open. Globally, they are springing up everywhere with 14 already open in Australia and another six slated to open, including on the Sunshine Coast.
Tom said the secret to its success was that it could be all things to all people.
“Our youngest member is 12, the oldest is 96,” he said. “Our fittest members are triathletes. We’ve got ex-pro football players and lots of people who have never been to a gym in their life and don’t have any intention of going to one, but just want to maintain their body, particularly with regards to posture.
“It’s really an open door to any body and every body – all ages, all fitness and flexibility levels. No one is excluded from the benefits of stretching.”
The packages are as flexible as you’re going to feel with a monthly membership model made to make weekly stretching a way of life.
There’s no annual or long-term lock-in contract with the only commitment being an initial two-month membership of a weekly stretch of either 25 or 50 minutes. After that, it’s a monthly package that you can leave at any time with 30 days’ notice.
Tom said the option was also there to ‘pause’ your package if circumstances changed, such as going on holidays.
“Then when you come back, we’ll give you a good deep stretch,” he said. “After the initial two months of eight weekly stretches, you’ll be best informed to make the right decision for you.
“For most people, it becomes their new religion and complements anything else they’re already doing from weightlifting
to Pilates, walking or swimming.
“Flexible by name, flexible by nature.”
While there is a walk-in rate, mainly for tourists and visitors, the purpose is to maintain the practice with weekly sessions to keep you feeling your best.
“The whole ethos behind what we do is that it is one-on-one stretching with a trained flexologist. It’s completely unique,” Tom said.
StretchLab combines the Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) approach with dynamic and static stretching to increase range of motion and maximise benefits during a session.
“When you get stretched here, not only do we put you in technically the right position, but the Flexologist will ask you
to contract certain muscles and hold the contraction for a few moments,” Tom said.“It’s a really good deep stretch and something you really can’t do on your own, particularly for larger muscles.”
You’re in good hands with Flexologists requiring at least a Certificate III or IV in fitness and a similar kind of qualification before undergoing a thorough 70-hours of training before they get hands-on.
“Our team are amazing and amongst them you can find a gymnast; the Australian national champion for aerial art; a yoga instructor of 30 years; personal trainers; a movement and nutrition coach; and even a bodybuilder.
“They’re from different walks of life, but they all understand anatomy and what’s needed and they’re passionate about stretching. They love the product and what they’re doing because it’s not being done anywhere else before.”
Training the team is Stretch guru Brad Walker who Tom says is known as ‘Mr Stretch’ in America with high-profile athletes and celebrity clients.
“Brad is to stretching what Jane Fonda was to aerobics and because he is based on the Gold Coast, he delivers the training in-person to our team,” he said.
While Tom says it’s pretty simple with no gimmicks or machines, there is one machine that is integral to understanding your current state and tracking progress.
MAPS measures your Mobility, Activation, Posture and Symmetry by seeing how well your body can move while performing a few squats. This revolutionary 3D body scanning tool provides insight on how well your body is moving with your Flexologist guiding you through the scan, helping you to interpret the results and then using the data to customise your stretch. It uses a traffic light system to provide a baseline with monthly scans to see your improvement over time.
While the main benefits include improved sports performance; increased range of motion, improved posture and reduced muscle and joint pain and stress on both your physical and mental state, Tom loves hearing direct client feedback.
“In addition to people saying they feel freer and walk taller, they also say they sleep better and gain mental clarity and peace, including assistance with PTSD.
“I heard our 96 year old client say she could finally see over the Specials aisle in Aldi for the first time in a long time,” he said. “An increased degree of flexibility can also reduce the risk of injury if you suffer a fall. Most of us are gum trees and we want to be bamboo! Particularly big guys who pump a lot of weight; stretching helps loosen things up.
“Stretching isn’t new, it’s been around since we started walking out of caves.”
I’m convinced and after registering mostly in the yellow or red zones on MAPS, I enjoy a 25-minute session, which leaves me relaxed, looser and feeling taller. I’m grateful for the personalised and professional care and attention given to me by my Flexologist. Committing to a 25 minute session once a week is very achievable.
It’s not too much of a stretch to say that I’ve found something worth committing to.