Hello, my name is Debbie and I’m a certified Fascial Stretch Therapist.
If your first thought is, “what is a Fascial Stretch Therapist?” I suggest you read the 10 Benefits of Fascial Stretch Therapy, an article I wrote a few months ago. Here’s a little teaser from that post:
What is Fascial Stretch Therapy?
Fascial Stretch Therapy (or FST), is a type of stretching that targets not only the muscles, but the fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds muscles, bones, and joints. FST also targets the entire joint and joint capsule, using traction to remove restrictions from movement and to stimulate lubrication. A therapist will gently pull and move the arms, legs, spine, and neck in a smooth motion through varying planes of movement. There is no pain, not even discomfort. Instead, the gentle movement is stimulating and relaxing at the same time. Read more…
The Stretch to Win Institute
The level one Fascial Stretch Therapist certification is held at the Stretch to Win Institute in Tempe, Arizona. The institute is run by Ann Frederick and Chris Frederick, the developers of fascial stretch therapy. It is a week long course, taught by the Fredericks, along with five other teaching assistants. It is almost completely hands on. After a week-long class, I stretched and was stretched multiple times. It was also one of the most intense, strenuous, exhausting, and fun class that I’ve ever been to.
Fun? Yes, thanks to Chris and, especially, Ann, who, along with their assistants, kept us laughing and learning for five days straight. Ann started right away during introductions, apologizing for her, um, behavior. She simply doesn’t hold anything back. What passes through her brain passes out her mouth. I’m still not sure if this was a plan or not, but one of the results of this no holds barred attitude was to take a group of 36 strangers and make us friends.
We began day one by introducing ourselves to the group. The 36 students were from all over the world, including several people from Canada, one from France, and one woman (another Deb!) all the way from Australia. There were even three others from the desert near me, though I didn’t know them before class. There were quite a few personal trainers, many massage therapists, an orthopod, a chiropractor, an athletic trainer, and several people new to the health business, just starting their journey.
Our instructors, in addition to Ann and Chris, included Jon, Elizabeth, Emily and Sara, all level 3 CFST, plus Paula who is also level three, who was there to help out and potentially become an instructor too. Each teacher was amazing, and each allowed their own personal style to show in their teaching. Thanks to all of these fine teachers, I, and my 35 classmates were able to stuff a huge amount of information into our heads in just five days.
After introductions we got down to it. The rest of the day was spent starting to learn the techniques for lower body fascial stretch. We were split into six groups and split off with a different teacher. My group started with Ann. She is brilliant, funny, and risqué. Ann is a former dancer who developed her system of flexibility training over 20 years ago. She has stretched NFL players, Olympians, and other elite athletes throughout the years. In fact, FST was first used to improve athletic performance, but Ann and Chris soon learned that the therapy also rapidly helped clients with a variety of chronic, unresponsive pain conditions, strength imbalances, and other neuromusculoskeletal disorders.
The format which was used throughout each breakout group consisted of the teacher performing the technique on each member of the group, then the group would practice on each other, then finally, each person in the group would take turns doing the stretches on the instructor, who would give feedback as necessary. It worked beautifully. We rotated from teacher to teacher to experience their different teaching styles.
And so it went through the rest of the day, with an hour or so for lunch. I went to Whole Foods (four out of the five days..I left the evenings for my vegan restaurant exploration). There were several other students there, including two from out of the state who ended up being my lunch buddies. Michelle is from North Dakota and Sheila is from Texas. Michelle is also a cross country coach, so we had something else in common.
On day two we continued learning lower body FST techniques. For some of the stretches, we partnered up and worked on each other as Ann demonstrated and talked us through it. By the end of the day I think most of us felt like our brains were full and there wasn’t room for much more to be stuffed in there.
We finished up lower body and moved on to upper on day three. I, for one, was starting to feel at least a minimal level of comfort on the lower body. We continued with our breakout groups and our one-on-one practice, switching partners each time so that we had the opportunity to experience stretching several different people.
On day four we finished up with upper body and moved on to the neck. Friday was looming, when we would need to put it all together plus do our practical test. Our written test was based on our pre-class reading material and was taken before the class even started. I know that I was feeling the pressure, and I’m pretty sure everyone else was too. There was just so much to learn. Not only the stretching techniques, but we were also learning to “feel” the tissue so that we could go beyond just the routine and provide for the needs of each individual client.
Back in the hotel that evening, I tried to walk my tired brain through it all. I’m sure I was overthinking it, but I just wanted to feel like I knew what I was doing.
We had been told that no one had ever failed, but day five was still looming large. We started the day by working with a partner (I got to work with Sheila), while Ann walked us through one side of FST (left leg, right arm, neck). We switched places with our partner and did it again. Then we were on our own. We each took turns working the other side body. We weren’t allowed to help each other (though there were a few whispers passed). I was pretty pleased that I only missed a couple things and, overall I think, did a good job. Then came the practical.
For the practical test, we had six body parts to stretch, each done on a different teacher. It wasn’t nearly as scary as I had thought, and we all got through without a problem. We weren’t graded, but we learned a few tips and corrections as needed. Whew! Then, after a question and answer period, the graduation ceremony!
I’m officially a Certified Fascial Stretch Therapist! I’ve been practicing on Alan all week, plus I got to stretch my boss Amy, who is level 3 CFST.
I know that many of my readers are runners, and I know that many of you also struggle with repeated injuries. (I read your blogs!) I urge you look into FST. And not just runners, of course, everyone can find benefits. I said this the other day and I’ll repeat it. Fascial stretch therapy can be life changing. It can correct imbalances, reduce your pain, improve your performance, and decrease your chance of future injury. And unlike massage, foam rolling, or some other body work methods, FST is pain-free. Really, it is.
Have you ever tried Fascial Stretch Therapy? If you’re interested, you can find a therapist in your area.
If you want to learn more:
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