Why Stretch Classes Are the Secret to Upping Your Fitness Game
After 55 minutes of high-intensity exercise, that last five minutes of stretch can feel insignificant and totally worth skipping to snag a few extra minutes in the shower. But while it doesn’t have the sweat-dripping velocity of cycling, boxing, or rock climbing, stretching, it turns out, just might be the secret to taking your workout to the next level.
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As exercise routines have become steadily more rigorous (hello, CrossFit and Tough Mudder), with humblebrag Instagrams regularly showcasing blisters and dislocated joints as merit badges, the need for structured recovery is more real than ever. “People turn to cardio for weight loss or cardiovascular conditioning or stress management or to blow off steam, but they don’t realize that if they just do that without stretching, there will be imbalances and asymmetries in the body,” says physical therapist Michelle Rodriguez, founder of the Manhattan Physio Group. Having trained at the prestigious School of American Ballet, Rodriguez understands the benefits of flexibility and the risks associated with a lack thereof. She says even relatively demure workouts like barre classes are taxing on the body: “I see tons of plantar fasciitis and Achilles problems from bobbing up and down on the balls of the feet.” And the effects of inflexibility are cumulative; long-term tightness of the muscles restricts the flexibility of the joints, ushering in full-body fatigue. Balancing out strenuous activity with stretch is therefore essential in order to ensure that your workout isn’t doing you more harm than good.
With this in mind, gyms across the country are moving stretching out of the shadows and into the spotlight, offering full, often hour-long classes dedicated to the practice. Studios like Stretching by the Bay in San Francisco and Lastics in New York City are entirely flexibility-focused practices, operating as much to compensate for clients’ grueling workouts as for their sedentary, screen-oriented lifestyles (“When you sit slouched over at your desk, your pectoral muscles and your hips get really tight and the lower back get weak and stiff,” Rodriguez notes). Assisted stretching, like the one-on-one sessions at Stretch Lab in L.A.’s Venice Beach, addresses the specific asymmetries of clients’ individual bodies and offers personally tailored remedies. And studios with Yamuna method classes utilize body-rolling balls to coax muscles toward relaxation.
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So how best to take advantage of the crush of classes now available? Rodriguez advises scheduling stretch sessions directly following high-intensity workouts and carving out time to stretch daily (at home for 10 minutes following a hot shower is good if you can’t make it to a class every day). “The 30 seconds or a minute of stretching at the end of a spin class is really not enough to undo all the tightness from the day,” she explains. And, she points out, there’s another bonus to the practice: “If we keep mobile and supple and lengthened, it’s a way of anti-aging.”
Here, the best studios for stretch classes coast to coast.
New York City
24 West 57th Street, Suite 805
New York, NY 10019
219 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
Core Pilates NYC
900 Broadway, Suite 401
New York, NY 10003
512 Rose Avenue
Venice, California 90291
8376 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90048
Whole Body Method
5700 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90019
Maiden Lane Studios
80 Maiden Lane
San Francisco, California 94108
1000 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, California 94109
Stretching by the Bay
870 Market Street, Suite 1019
San Francisco, California 94102
2248 North Clark Street
Chicago, Illinois 60614
410 South Michigan Avenue, Suite 841
Chicago, Illinois 60605
14411 South Dixie Highway, Suite 220
Miami, Florida 33176
9531 Northeast Second Ave
Miami Shores, Florida 33138
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