There’s something satisfying about working out until you feel like your heart is going to pump right out of your chest. It’s a stress reliever and endorphin booster. And popular boutique fitness classes like SoulCycle, Rumble, Barry’s Bootcamp, Physique 57, Pure Barre, SLT and ModelFIT have built a dedicated clientele based on a breathless, intense workout. But while getting your heart pumping is good for you, pushing your body to its physical limits can be dangerous.
The problem is that working out intensely raises cortisol, the stress hormone, which is especially problematic if cortisol is already high because of life’s daily stressors. High cortisol levels can reduce libido and fertility and cause weight gain, high blood pressure, disrupt sleep and more.
If you’re working out harder and longer than ever but still don’t feel your jeans loosening, it may be a sign that your cortisol levels are too high. More is not always better. That’s where recovery and stretching studios come in. That’s right, we’re telling you working out less and recovering more may actually help you achieve your goals faster.
“People are busy, but they make time for what’s important to them, and recovery should be very important to them,” says Stretch*d co-founder and CEO Amanda Freeman. It’s important to note that Freeman is also the founder of SLT so she has seen firsthand what can happen when people work out too hard and don’t take time to recover.
“We get that people don’t have time — we barely have time for it and we work here,” says Freeman. “But that’s exactly why we created Quick*e, a 25-minute, one-on-one stretch session,” she says. “After that first session, we believe they’ll make time for it again in the future.”
Like with most things in life, it’s important to think long term when building an exercise program. “People are playing golf, running, playing tennis, doing triathlons and yoga well into their 70s,” says Lisa Schneider of LYMBR, a stretching studio with locations throughout the Northeast and West Hollywood, Calif. “With our founders being competitive athletes in their youth and remaining competitive in their 50s, they know they’re not the only ones who need something to keep them performing at the level they desire. Investing in a one-on-one stretching session will keep your body healthy, mobile and aligned so you can maintain your regular schedule and not miss a workout or class.”
For those who spend hours commuting and sitting at a desk, these stretching sessions will reduce posture-related injuries, says Schneider. “We see a lot of clients who have back pain from poor posture from too many hours sitting. We also help relieve the pains associated with tech neck — smartphone usage is terrible for your head and neck positioning.”
LYMBR and Stretch*d both mention that they’re working on incorporating social aspects to their sessions so that people can do something great for themselves while spending time with their friends or significant other. It’s not hard to imagine that these spaces will soon be hubs for networking.
And while it might seem unnecessary to pay someone to stretch your body, these sessions are much more than guided stretch time. “We offer physiological/neuromuscular, cognitive function, stress management and sleep quality recovery services,” says RēCOVER co-founder Aaron Drogoszewski. “Our biggest star is NuCalm, which is an FDA-approved and patented class three medical device used to shift the autonomic nervous system into parasympathetic dominance. It delivers three hours of restorative sleep in 30 minutes, crushes stress, improves mood, immune function, cognition and muscular repair.”
While recovery studios offer single sessions, the idea is to commit to a program or package for benefits that last. Drogoszewski calls a single session “a highly evolved, technology-forward aspirin.” And before you excuse yourself from stretch class, remember that these services aren’t just for fitness-minded people.
“There’s an extremely large market of people who have performance demands not related to the state of their neuromuscular systems. Business professionals, creative professionals, moms and dads all have performance demands and the stressors associated aren’t typically the wear and tear on their quads or lats,” says Drogoszewski.
That’s why RēCOVER focuses on recovering cognitive function, stress management and sleep quality. As for stretch-specific sessions, think of them as better versions of a massage. “Massage therapy is a passive manual manipulation, rubbing and kneading of soft body tissues to enhance a person’s well-being, whereas our stretching methods not only leave you feeling light and relaxed, but energetic,” says Schneider. “Stretching is a dynamic movement of the body, increasing blood flow and range of motion, which helps joints stay aligned and muscles move more effectively while working to counteract tightness and tension.”
This trend is only in its infancy, so expect more and more like-minded spaces to open in the coming year.