We all need a curious friend willing to accompany us on wellness field trips. There is benefit to social support and it lends itself to accountability on one's life journey. One of my dear friends, our girls were in preschool together, is always reliable for investigating movement practices. Whether Pilates, yoga, or most recently, The Stretch Zone, she is keen on researching practices that might enhance strength, range of motion, mental health, and overall quality of life. (She also laughs at all of my husband's jokes! God bless her!)
We were familiar with the new franchise, The Stretch Zone, and motivated enough to register for their half hour free consultation in Menomonee Falls. This particular location is owned by an occupational therapist and (to the best of my recollection) the co-owner is a Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA). As an occupational therapist myself, I could appreciate how one might invest in a small business like The Stretch Zone, which like so many modalities, is an investment in feeling better, understanding one's postural alignment, and the recognition that there is not a one size fits all prescription to physical and emotional health. While sleep, nutrition, exercise, and social support might be a foundation for a healthy lifestyle one's individual strategies might look different. The Stretch Zone helps to fill in a gap for those looking for physical, hands-on assistance for their well-being.
The business is clean, with a minimalist, open-concept design. Inspirational photos and quotes adorn the wall and the primary space is occupied by approximately 4 mat tables. According to the website, "Using our patented strapping system and proprietary tables to position, stabilize and isolate muscles, our certified staff delivers a life-changing stretch experience to help you move efficiently and effortlessly." A client rests on the mat table while a stretch therapist, or "practitioner" guides the client through a series of progressively deeper stretches. Using a 3, 5, 7 feedback protocol, The Stretch Zone Method grades each stretch with an intensity scale to ensure safety and comfort of the guests. Our trained practitioners, Tyler and Danny, were attentive and professional. Prior to the practice, they completed a thorough health history intake as well as a general activity profile. The practitioners generally have a background in movement, like exercise science or kinesiology, then receive additional training for the Stretch Zone certificate. The facility is accredited by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. Although the initial consult is designed to be a half hour, on this particular day our appointment lasted nearly an hour. Clearly we were high maintenance!
Clients are encouraged to dress comfortably. I wore joggers and a tank top while my friend wore yoga leggings and an athletic top. Socks or bare feet are also appropriate. The mat tables have a couple of large straps or "seat belts" so that you are snug and secure on the table for the variety of stretches. I often share the mantra in Pilates, we need a "fixed point" from which we stretch. Typically in Pilates we work to stabilize our core/pelvis and then move our extremities; in the case of The Stretch Zone, the strap does the work of the core. Believe it or not, your only real job is to simply relax! Besides relaxing, you also must provide feedback for each stretch. For instance, in the case of a hamstring stretch, the practitioner will support your leg and work with your reflexes to assist and guide you to a beneficial stretch. Once you start feeling the stretch you report, "that is a 3." The stretch progresses as you communicate your comfort level through an intensity of "5" and finally "7." The therapists have a skilled hands-on technique which definitely takes training.
Probably what I appreciated the most, was after this thorough assessment, there were no heavy sales pitches. The services they provide are valuable, however they recognize the free consult may not result in an immediate new client and that's o.k. Everybody is different. I am fortunate that my Pilates equipment, particularly the tower and reformer springs, provide support and feedback with my movement patterns. My Pilates workouts are sufficient for helping me build strength and maintain a functional range of motion, at least at this time. My friend on the other hand, experienced positive gains with the technique, and based upon her physical history, felt additional sessions would be helpful. We both agreed this week, when she was doing the "Short Box" exercises on the reformer which includes a Figure 4 stretch, that her range of motion seemed more natural and fluid. For the stiff, tight, muscularly restricted individual, these half hour sessions may be quite therapeutic. In addition, and I have not done the research, just my hunch, those who complain of muscular and joint pain might also find relief through this gentle process.
Overall it was time well spent. It satisfied my curiosity and I would not hesitate to recommend it to friends or clients looking to enhance their range of motion and overall sense of well-being. Thank you for reading! www.stretchzone.com/