By Jerry Del Priore
One of the most ignored segments of a fitness routine is flexibility. Even when incorporated into an exercise program, there’s a limit to how far someone can stretch themselves, noted James Leonard, a longtime fitness professional and manager and stretch practitioner at The Stretch Joint in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
That’s where Leonard’s flexibility facility and staff come into play, providing pain relief and increasing range of motion for Brooklynites and countless others for the past 11 months.
The flexibility method employed at the Stretch Joint is called Active Isolated Stretching (AIS)—a type of athletic stretching technique, developed by Aaron Mattes (M.S.), that provides effective, dynamic, assisted stretching of major muscle groups. More importantly, it delivers functional and physiological restoration of superficial and deep fascial planes, according to StretchJoint.com.
The key to AIS is that stretches are held no longer than four-five seconds at a time, with each repetition moving a little further, Leonard pointed out. This prevents localized muscle fatigue and lactic acid buildup, plus decreases potential injury.
AIS is better suited for pre-workout or competition performance, Leonard said.
“Whenever somebody comes in, the first thing we do is to find out what’s going on with them,” Leonard, 52, explained. “Then, we teach people the proper way to stretch.”
The Stretch Joint treats clients from all walks of life, including athletes and people with various physical conditions and maladies.
“What we get in here are athletes trying to increase range of motion, and people with injuries and diseases, Leonard said.”
Among some of the injuries and diseases he mentioned were piriformis syndrome (a neuromuscular disorder related to the sciatic nerve), bulging and herniated disks, frozen shoulder syndrome, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) and muscular dystrophy (MD).
“We relieve the symptoms thereof. It doesn’t cure it. It relieves symptoms that they’re suffering from, because those are autonomic nervous system diseases, which attack the nervous system,” he said of Parkinson’s, MS and MD. “The muscles are controlled by the nervous system, so they get some relief.”
In addition, several clients are benefiting from The Stretch Joint’s flexibility therapy.
“A friend of mine, who knows my chronic neck pain issues, referred me to see James (or Magic Jim as he is often called) at the Stretch Joint,” said Jeanmarie Tari-Blake, a highly skilled Nurse Practitioner from Staten Island. “I have had neck pain for over 20 years and recently developed numbness and tingling down my arm. I have had multiple epidural steroid injections in my neck as well as facet joint injections and radio frequency ablations (a pain management procedure) over the years, which were ineffective. I have also done physical therapy, chiropractic treatment and acupuncture, with limited relief of my symptoms.
“I went for a free session in April 2017,” she continued. “I then met with James, who is a true professional. I have now been going twice per week. He was very honest with me and made me aware from the first visit that, given the chronicity of my symptoms, this will be a long process. But he would get me better. I’m happy to say that I get improvement with each session. I’m very optimistic about the future now.”
Plus, Leonard said that increased flexibly also improves blood circulation, as taught and tight muscles limit blood flow. He said proper stretching over time leads to muscular healing and improved sleep patterns because of better overall body relaxation.
“When we stretch you, you release endorphins within your body, so it relaxes you,” Leonard expounded. “So, later on that night, you sleep better. I’ve had people I’ve stretched, come back and say, ‘That’s the best night’s sleep I had in years.”’