It’s no secret that years of hunching over a computer screen or slouching on a sofa while glued to the TV yield an array of aches and pains. Throw in “text neck,” and it’s no wonder that parents these days are begging their kids to go into chiropathy. But a new company in town offers an aches-and-pains-beating service that’s both relaxing and satisfying: stretching. And this isn’t a yoga or gym class. At The Stretch Zone, as if at a massage or chiropractic appointment, the trained practitioners do the work for you, targeting the areas that are causing discomfort.
“You come in, lay on the table, and our practitioners are trained to manipulate your body to perform all of the stretches,” says John Bladek, owner of the two Capital Region Stretch Zones (in Delmar and Clifton Park) and a soon-to-open location on Wolf Road. “You don’t have to do anything except tell them when and where you’re feeling a stretch. You lay on the table, and we do the work.” He describes the sessions as “lazy yoga,” and works with customers ages 15 and up who are hip replacement patients, professional athletes, workaholics, and even students aiming to prevent injury while vying for college sports scholarships. At The Stretch Zone, people can call anytime to make their regular appointments, an ease that’s possible only because it doesn’t take insurance (although telling your doctor is of course encouraged). Although the sessions resemble light physical therapy, the process is more like a massage appointment.
When you show up for your Stretch Zone session, know that you’re in good hands. The practitioners are required to have a background in anatomy or physiology (think massage therapists and the like) before they can even take the 40-hour training, which is a nationally accredited certification backed by the Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork Board. For the past few years, Bladek worked hand in hand with franchise owners across the country, training their staff to the high quality standard that Stretch Zone has become known for. He chose the Capital Region for his first foray into business ownership to be closer to friends and family where he grew up in Little Falls, about 45 minutes west of Amsterdam. “Education was too distant from the actual clients,” says the entrepreneur, who helped countless franchise owners work on their brands before taking the leap himself. “I love being in the facility, talking to the people who come in, seeing the way they progress over time. When I was educating practitioners, I missed that.”
New Stretch Zone customers, who are encouraged to wear yoga pants or gym shorts and of course, socks, start off with a free consultation that requires no commitment. “We want to be able to do the evaluation without the pressure of having already spent money on it,” Bladek says. “We really are just trying to help everybody in the community here experience what we do without feeling like they have to buy something or that money is going be a restricting factor. I’ve always been a very firm believer that wealth shouldn’t determine health. So you come in for your free stretch, and then afterwards we’ll see if it’s something that we can make work for you.”
That evaluation is crucial and helps set up your long-term plan. “Often people come in and they know that they’re tight and they want to stretch, but they have trouble discerning the main areas they want to work on,” Bladek says. “So we talk about what they do for work and what they do for fun, and if they had any injuries, even if they were 10 or 15 years ago. We want to find the cause of any aches or tightness, not just the symptoms. Then we try to systematically isolate the specific muscles that are creating a problem, and we love to focus towards a goal. We all want to be more flexible, but if we can really tie it to something tangible—like being able to tie your shoes comfortably or being able to sit in the car for a half hour without your back tightening up—we can work to accomplish a productive, long-term goal.”
Bladek uses body issues stemming from working at a desk job as a prime example of something that The Stretch Zone can help with. “I can’t tell you how many people come in here with such tight neck muscles that they end up with all of these cramps, aches and pains, and tension headaches,” he says. “It really just comes from that poor everyday posture that could be corrected with a little bit of stretching and a little bit of exercise. If you sit at a desk all day, your arms are in front of you. So those muscles end up stronger and tighter. Your body, however, really prefers equilibrium, so it’ll try to use the opposite muscles to correct that. And this is where people end up with a sore upper back from poor posture. It’s not the back muscles that are the problem; it’s the front muscles that are the problem. So we try to loosen those tight muscles so there’s less of that extra stress and pressure on the joint. We can ultimately correct a lot of posture issues in that manner. People often try to avoid the area that’s uncomfortable and where they feel pain. But in reality that’s probably the one area that needs the most attention.”
Stretch Zone Locations
Delmar: 180 Delaware Avenue
Clifton Park: 54 Crossing Boulevard
Wolf Road: Coming soon!