Sarah Mariano - The Stretch Queen

If there is such thing as treatment envy, scrolling through stretch therapist Sarah Mariano’s Instagram account will definitely spark it in you.

Mariano, a certified Fascial Stretch Therapist, Mobility Specialist and Fitness Trainer has been active her entire life. She’s been in the health and fitness industry for a decade and made the switch from traditional personal training to full-time stretch therapy as a way to offer her clients more and helping them live healthier, more mobile lives. 

Her Instagram account (@thestretchtherapist) showcases work she does with her clients (which also includes a list of professional athletes from the NBA, NFL and PGA) with amazing before and after videos with oft-described “yummy” stretches and jaw-dropping before and after videos that it’s not wonder she’s earned the title, The Stretch Queen. 

Q. How did you get started in becoming a stretch therapist?

Sarah: I was a trainer and I wanted to help or offer more value to my clients other than just fat loss and strength training. When they would get injured I felt helpless and I hated that I couldn’t do something before I sent them to chiro or a doctor. 

I ended up taking fascial stretch therapy which is a course I was introduced to early in my career… I took it and fell in love, I thought it was just going to be supplementary to add value to my clients but it took a mind of its own and it turned into the majority of my business. In 2016, I switched completely from training to FST not just fascial stretch therapy, since then I’ve taken a myriad of courses so I do stretch therapy, I’ve also taken Thai yoga massage courses and a lot of courses that chiros physios and RMT’s would take just to make myself a better therapist. 

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Q. How did you see it take off when you made that switch from training to stretch therapy?

Sarah: It’s a mixture of many things, with stretch therapy it’s not covered under any benefits so I had to make the conscious decision early that I had to come from it at a different angle because it’s not easy to get people to pay out of pocket for things that are covered to a degree. I made the switch because more and more of my clients wanted stretch therapy and I fell in love with it more and more. I fell in love with that type of training … I love training for foundational, functional exercises. When I stretch people it’s not just a random stretch, it’s very targeted. 

Q. How does it work?

Sarah: We do a full assessment and we stretch you based on your needs and then we do some strength work after because you need to stabilize the changes you made. So that’s where my training foundation comes in. Our main goal is to get our clients moving better, reduce pain and to live their life fully where they don’t feel restricted. So, it’s more of a lifestyle change rather than just getting rid of a random pain for a short period of time, we want to change their lives.

Q. Whether someone is active or not everyone has an ailment and sometimes people just kind of live with it, is that fair to say?

Sarah: All the time. People say just because they’re getting older there’s no way they move like they did before. So, it’s our job to educate and inform. With our therapists, education is key to our sessions, you don’t just come in face down get a massage and leave, we really educate and try to show them their anatomy using apps and visual aids to showcase why this is happening, we try to get to the bottom of this, based on our scope of practice. If there are things I can’t get to I happily refer them out to colleagues who are physios, chiros, etc. What we do here specifically is movement-based stretching we do a lot assessments and muscle testing, it’s not just stretching. When I switched (from training) completely, I felt like I was helping people on a larger scale, instead of just fat loss – this is not to say that fat loss can’t help with overall confidence and lifestyle changes, it absolutely can, but for me this is more of a passion and I get to work with really amazing people.

Q. Can you tell me about the Stretch Tours that you do?

Sarah: The idea came to me in that I just wanted to travel, I love to travel and I thought I don’t want to just travel and not make any money or just travel aimlessly, I wanted it to be purposeful. Thankfully, The Stretch Tour came about before I started growing my Instagram following and one of the reasons why I spend a lot of time growing my Instagram is because I wanted a global audience so I could do a stretch tour and travel. I spent about a year researching how to optimize your Instagram and taking a lot of courses to become a better therapist, networking, reaching out to experts in the community to dive deeper into how to fix people and recover people. 

We’ve only done Canada so far and we will be travelling again in Canada this year and the only reason is because it’s hard to get visas and sponsorships but ideally, we’d like to go to other cities. With the United States being our biggest followership, we have a lot of people begging us to come to LA and New York.

For the Stretch Tour, I connect with other stretch therapists, even RMT’s around the world who like what I do and want to be part of The Stretch Tour and if it’s a good fit then they host me which is really helpful ... And in some of the cities I can’t get to, it’s great to connect my followers with a local therapist. 

Q. You’ve mentioned Instagram quite a bit, how crucial is Instagram to your business?

Sarah: It’s really been just the past year and half that I’ve been seriously on it to build the business and it’s been really great. Now I’m keeping up with all these changes in the algorithms early this year so some of the changes have definitely affected the reach and overall exposure, we’re trying to step up and look into ads. Still trying to analyze the situation.

Q. What are the most common ailments you treat?

Sarah: The first one is lower back. That’s the number one for sure. It depends when I stretch more CrossFit and hardcore athletes depending on their sports, there have been a lot of shoulder injuries as well as knee. But low back and knee problems are the biggest, and then shoulder and neck.

Q. What’s a good way to adopt a good stretching habit?

Sarah: General advice first, get in the proper mindset. The focus should be how to move efficiently. So, if you’re sitting a lot then you workout for an hour in the morning you may think it’s enough but it’s not. You want to learn how to move in different plains of motion so not just forward and back or the same exercises, you want to switch it up, you want to add rotational movements. Basically, you want to add all these movements that your body was meant to do. You not only have to learn how to control those movements – so not doing a quick squat with no form in mind – you have to learn how to go slowly through the movements with motor control and how your joints are articulating… With control comes strength, so you have to do some strength work, but it has to be intentional not just a bicep curl, but understanding how that joint is moving under load.

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**This is an edited version of an interview with Sarah Mariano