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Should you pay someone to help you stretch? I tried it to find out

Stretch studios are a popular recovery trend, but they can be expensive.

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Assisted stretch sessions are a new recovery trend in fitness.

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A new kind of fitness studio is popping up all over the country -- one where you don't even go to work out, but to get a deep stretch. Stretch studios, like Stretch*d and LYMBR in NYC and Stretch Pro in Los Angeles are studios dedicated entirely to stretching and recovery. You book a stretch session just like a workout class, and then a stretching specialist guides you through dynamic and assisted stretches. Many of the studios say the benefits range from better recovery, increased flexibility, range of motion and less stiffness and soreness.

The stretch studio trend comes on the heels of a huge focus on recovery in the fitness industry. ClassPass reported data in their 2019 Fitness Trends that showed a nationwide increase in users booking recovery and restorative services, like cryotherapy, sauna, massage and meditation. So it makes sense that people are paying professionals to help them learn to stretch and recover correctly. And you don't even have to work out to get a stretch session -- they can benefit anyone, like someone who sits at a desk all day and needs some relief. 

I've done two assisted stretch sessions now and can say they've definitely helped me realize how much more I need to stretch and how someone could benefit from regular assisted stretching. But I know that these sessions are not cheap (a 25-minute session at Stretch*d in NYC costs $45, which is more than most one-hour fitness classes in NYC). 

Keep reading to find out more about my experience, how stretch sessions work and if it's worth investing the money in a session.

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When you go to a stretch session a professional will guide you through a series of deep stretches.

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What to expect during an assisted stretching session 

While your stretch experience will vary depending on where you go, typically you will start with talking to the stretch specialist who will ask you if you have any pain, areas you want to work on or other concerns. Then the specialist will lead you through a series of assisted stretches and help you stretch from head to toe.

My first stretch experience was with LYMBR, a NYC-based brand. I was at an event where we did a workout class with a "mini stretch" session afterwards. The stretch session was all upper body focused, which was perfect since that's where I carry a lot of tension and sometimes don't know how to stretch super tight areas like my neck or traps very well. 

The stretch felt amazing (and sometimes hurt a bit!) but I felt like a different person even after just 10-15 minutes of the specialist helping pull and stretch my arms and upper body in ways I could never do on my own. My favorite part of the session is that the specialist showed me how to stretch my neck and traps properly, so I can do the stretches on my own at home. 

My second stretch session was with Restore Hyper Wellness + Cryotherapy at Movement with Michelob Ultra, a fitness festival in Austin, Texas. Although I didn't get to visit the actual studio, Restore had a station set up at the event. For this session I did a full-body stretch on a massage table. The massage therapist started by using the Hyperice Hypervolt on my muscles while I laid face-down on the table. 

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Some stretch sessions integrate the use of a massage gun like Theragun or Hypervolt.

Theragun

"Using a Hypervolt helps relieve muscle pain, and increases circulation and blood flow. It is a nice way to "warm up" the muscles prior to a stretch," says Jim Donnelly, CEO of Restore Hyper Wellness + Cryotherapy.

After the therapist used the Hypervolt on me, he led me through a series of stretches focusing on my hips, quads and upper body. The stretches were intense at times, but I knew that they felt intense because they are stretches I can't normally do on my own. This is the exact reason I would go back to a stretch session, even on a weekly or monthly basis if possible, because there is only so much you can (or feel like doing) on your own at home.

I don't ever skip the stretches at the end of workout classes, but since they only last for a few minutes or so, I try to add on a 10-15 minute stretch video from an app or YouTube after intense sessions. But it's not quite the same as having someone assist and lead you through a routine, and I certainly don't think I would stretch for 30 minutes on my own.

After the stretch session my body felt so much better -- like there was no tension. Aches and pains I barely noticed before or had been used to were gone. It just felt better to move and walk around, which was a huge benefit. I had been tense from flying and working out that week, and I swear the stretch session helped me even sleep better that night. I would compare it to how you feel after getting a massage, but different since it's not quite as deeply relaxing.

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An assisted stretching session can stretch spots you can't get to on your own.

Angela Lang/CNET

What are the benefits?

Stretch studios claim to help you improve flexibility, of course, but what else can you gain from an assisted stretch session? For starters, improving your mobility and range of motion can be extremely helpful for a variety of reasons.

"Mobility is one of the most important keys to quality of life. Done properly, stretching is a very powerful treatment to enhance mobility, reduce chronic pain and promote longevity," Donnelly said.

He said that people come to Restore for several different purposes, like to help improve athletic performance, prevent injury, help recover from an injury or to help improve general mobility.

"We feel very strongly that stretching and mobility is a foundational element of being able to move properly. The more mobile someone is, the more they can do the things that they enjoy," Donnelly said. 

How often should you do a stretch session or stretch in general?

One of the things I like about stretch studios is that many give you options to drop in for a session whenever you want, without having to commit to a membership. So if you want to do a lot of sessions you totally can, or if you want the occasional session as a "tune up" when you're feeling extra tense, you have that option too.

Stretching every day is ideal for improving flexibility, according to the ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute. So it goes without saying that it's unrealistic to pay someone to stretch you every day. Ideally, if you try a stretch session and like it, you can work that into your routine maybe once a week or once a month, and then use what you learn in the session to stretch for a few minutes every day at home.

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Stretch sessions can be helpful whether you're looking to improve flexibility, prevent injury or learn the proper way to stretch.

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Takeaways

While I wouldn't necessarily go to a stretch session every week, mainly due to the expense, I would go every month. I felt like the stretch specialists can help you stretch areas you don't know how to get to and can help you get a much deeper stretch than on your own. 

If I was experiencing an injury or pain, I would probably go more often (in addition to physical therapy). But overall,  if you don't know where to start when it comes to stretching, don't like to stretch or don't stretch on your own, having someone help you for the short term is a great idea. And once you feel confident, you can always do the stretches you learn on your own at home. 

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.