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Assisted stretching has long been en vogue across the pond, but can a stretch therapist really make a difference to your DOMs?
Experiencing nagging neck pain after a year of WFH at an ill-fitting desk setup, or constantly stiff from the hours you’re spending back at the gym trying to reach your pre-pandemic levels of fitness?
You’re far from alone. Pandemic posture, alongside lockdown, social distancing and AstraZeneca, became one of the standout buzzterms of last year. Stretching is now firmly on the wellness map, joining the likes of breathwork, cold water therapy and meditation as a raved-about cure-all for many modern day ailments.
Of course, athletes and celebrities have been enjoying the trend for years – so what brought it mainstream? The wellness Gods across the pond in L.A. are largely to thank: they first opened assisted stretching studios as early as 2018. But would the trend catch on in the UK, or, like celery juice and Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous yoni eggs, would it remain best suited in America’s woo-woo wellness world?
When I received a press email inviting me down to Stretch Inc. in Covent Garden – one of London’s only assisted stretching spots – I decided to find out for myself. Could having someone else stretch your limbs for you really help with DOMs and improve your physical fitness? Keep reading.
Stretch Inc. stretching studio: A review
Why is stretching so important?
While we’re all pretty hot on smashing our 10,000 steps, fitting in regular weight training and lacing up for the occasional 10km run, we’re not so good at stretching regularly. Flexibility and mobility, while key for keeping your muscles in tip-top shape, are all-too-often neglected in favour of – well, a quicker workout, or another Love Island episode.
Studies have found it helps to prevent injury, decrease muscle soreness and reduce risk of muscle imbalance, too. One review of eleven research papers carried out by a team at the University of Porto found that stretching is key to increasing joint range of motion, and a further Trusted Source paper found a hybrid of weight training and stretching both reduces musculoskeletal pain and improves posture.
FYI, there are both static stretches – like a hamstring or calf stretch, where you are still, not moving – or dynamic stretches – think trunk twists, walking lunges, or leg swings, where you are stretching but moving, too.
What is Stretch Inc?
That’s where Stretch Inc. comes in – as founder Rachele Gilman explains, a service designed to do the stretching for you ‘that can complement almost any lifestyle and varying degrees of free time.’
Stretch Inc. opened its first venue in Brixton in March 2020 and its second in Covent Garden in December 2020. “Assisted stretching is designed to make stretching, something everyone needs, accessible and easy to build into one’s day,” she shares. Pop in for ten, 25 or 50 minutes and one of their expert stretchologists will get to work.
As they say, ‘stretch more, hurt less.’
What did I think of Stretch Inc.?
After month (after month, after month) of Zoom yoga and half-hearted stretching at home, I was ridiculously stiff – to the point a massage therapist the week before had warned me that if I didn’t start stretching more, I was at serious risk of injury.
So, in I went to a post-work session at their Covent Garden studio. From the street, you’d think that Stretch Inc. was yet another yoga or pilates studio, complete with potted plants, candles and workout mats. But the open plan space is also complete with several leather benches and stretch experts ready to get to work on your sore muscles.
I had Andrea – a trained dancer and stretchologist – for my twenty five minute session, which started off with a quick consultation about where I felt needed most attention. (Conclusion: everywhere).
He warmed me up with a Theragun and largely focused on my hips. The session flew by, and after what felt like only a couple of minutes of Andrea working on stretching out my hamstrings, glutes, shoulders and hips, we were done.
Once you get over the initial shock of having a stranger push your legs nearer to your ears than you knew possible and focus, instead, on how good the stretch feels, it’s really rather enjoyable. I was sceptical pre-session – my inner critic kept asking why you’d pay to do something you can do for free at home – but wow, it was good.
Sounds cliché, but I felt light as a feather – after months of WFH strain and marathon training, my muscles felt light, tingly and seriously relaxed, despite only having half an hour or so on the mat.
How much is Stretch Inc.?
£25 for ten minutes, £45 for 25 minutes or £75 for 50 minutes. Not the cheapest, but IMO, an investment in health and a nice treat.
It’s expensive and not something your average Joe could enjoy every week, but it’s worth the money for a treat here and there.
They’re also offering lots of free taster sessions at current, so do head to their website to book in a slot for yourself, if you fancy.
Just like you can get your partner to massage you at home or try yoga from your living room, sure, you can stretch at home – but I don’t think you can quite replicate the feeling of a professional knowing exactly what they’re doing guiding you through the motions.
Stretching studios in London: others to try
Where? Notting Hill or Fitzrovia
Price: £28 for 25 minutes or £55 for 50 minutes, stretch-lab.co.uk
2. Good Stretch
Where: Aquilla Health & Fitness Club South Kensington
Price: £20 for one in-person session, goodstretch.uk