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Wagger Meghan McSharry takes your through her first experience with assisted stretching at the new StretchLab location in White Plains.

love writing about health and fitness trends and new businesses popping up in the region, so when I was asked to write a story about StretchLab I was more excited than ever.

If you’re anything like me, you skip stretching before and after a workout. Maybe it’s to save a few minutes of your time, or maybe it’s out of sheer laziness. (For me, it’s both.) Growing up in various sports programs, I had every coach in my ear reminding me of the importance of stretching. When I started to have tendon issues at the ripe old age of 13, trainers instructed me to stretch every day to help alleviate the pain. No matter how many experts told me how integral stretching is for my body, I never seemed to learn. Thus, after every workout, I still find myself struggling just to climb the stairs or sit in my chair.

Even when I skip exercising (which is most days), I spend 40 hours a week hunched over a computer screen. Sitting has been proven to be terrible for your health and, if you work a desk job, you know just how achey it can make you. 

Whether you’re a dedicated athlete or a desk potato, stretching is a vital step in keeping your body healthy and free of pain. StretchLab, Westchester County’s new assisted stretching franchise, is here to help you, whether you struggle to find time in your day to stretch or it simply slips your mind.

Dawn Rinaldi, franchise owner, opened the StretchLab in White Plains in mid-March of this year. The mother of two and soon-to-be empty nester decided to open the studio because she was ready for a new venture and saw a gap in the market for a place like StretchLab.

Dawn noted that StretchLab is for everyone, from young, competitive children to professional athletes and adults who are experiencing a few aches and pains and more.

“The best thing that’s happened to stretching is the computer and texting,” Dawn said. “Tech neck,” a term used to describe stiffness and soreness in the neck and upper body due to long hours hunched over a screen, is on the rise, and stretching can help combat it.

We chatted for a bit before Dawn sent me on my way with Maxwell Dane-Ennist, or Max, the general manager and head flexologist at StretchLab.

Max sat me down for a quick one-on-one session at one of the padded tables (intentionally out in the open to promote a sense of community) and asked me a few questions like what sports I played, how active I am and if there were any areas of concern. I’ve had extremely tight hamstrings for a few years now, so he went straight to work on my lower body.

Max explained each step along the way, which made me feel much more comfortable considering he was essentially a stranger touching me. But because he was so gentle, warm and informative, I almost forgot we had just met. There was nothing weird about it.

He stretched my legs and asked me to tell him when I felt tension reach a six on a scale of one to 10. Not a pain scale, but a tension scale, he told me.

Unsure of what that meant, I let him try it first. He knew right away when I was just about at a six. He was that intuitive when it came to moving and feeling the body.

Max explained that he is a certified personal trainer, licensed massage therapist and a kickboxing instructor. I assumed this is where the intuition came from, but it runs deeper than that.

“It’s sort of something I’ve always had,” he told me. “I’ve always been able to understand the human body.”

Max could feel when I was tensing up, knew when to remind me to keep my hips flat, and best (or worst) of all, could tell I was slouching over from long hours at my desk, which is something I hadn’t even noticed myself doing.

The stretching sessions use Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation — a method in which the flexologist puts your body into a position and asks you to contract and hold specific muscles for a few seconds. For example, Max would hold my leg up and ask me to push my toes toward him while flexing my foot and then count down for a few moments until relaxing again. This helps to increase range of motion and get maximum benefits during the session.

When the session was over, I felt a bit like jelly, but also more limber than I have in years. It was like a trip to the spa, only one that was good for both my mind and my body. It felt incredible, in part because I barely had to do any of the work, but also because I could tell my body would benefit in the long run from continuing these stretching sessions. Better yet, I didn’t even have to shower afterwards.

StretchLab recently launched its group stretch sessions, which Dawn explains are an “education tool.” Not only are they great for people who may not feel comfortable in a one-on-one session, but these group sessions also teach clients how to use tools like resistance bands and foam rollers to stretch out their bodies and promote recovery. 

If you’re ready to book a stretch, you can choose between a 25- or 50-minute session. For first-timers, the 25-minute session is discounted.

StretchLab White Plains is at 147 E. Post Road. Dawn is planning to open one in Mount Kisco as well.

For more, visit stretchlab.com.

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