When I get a massage, I’m used to being told my muscles are tight. It comes with an active lifestyle and a desk job. But I’m not used to leaving the table a quarter of an inch taller than I came in—which is precisely what happened when I tried fascial stretch therapy for the first time at Denver Sports Recovery.

DSR opened last August as a drop-in recovery center for everyone from high school gymnasts to CrossFit enthusiasts to pros (Shaun Phillips and Justin Morneau are regulars). “In Colorado, we treat our bodies like professional athletes do, but we don’t recover like them,” says DSR co-owner Andria Hassler. After a free initial consultation (memberships start at $75 per month; services can also be bought individually), sore-muscled Coloradans can access hot and cold tubs and compression boots, consult with a sports psychologist and a nutritionist, and schedule chiropractic work, acupuncture, massage, and less familiar treatments such as fascial stretch therapy.

Ann Frederick, a flexibility specialist, developed the practice in the late 1990s. The premise is passive, functional stretching that targets fasciae (the connective tissues found throughout your body). There are only 2,000 licensed fascial stretch therapists in the world; DSR has eight. Three of them, including Hassler, are among only 150 people with the highest level of certification.

During my first visit, Hassler has me lie on my back on the table then lifts my right leg and moves it in various repetitive motions—out to the side, across my body. After about 15 minutes, she tells me to look at my toes. My right leg is noticeably longer than my left. When I stand up, I feel the looseness in my right hip and quad. In comparison, the left side of my body is stiff and weighed down. By the end of my hourlong appointment, my body feels Gumby-like—and taller.

As I gather my things in the main room, a professional triathlete psychs herself up to get in the cold tub. It could just as easily be Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who visits DSR weekly during football season. Thanks to fascial stretching, he says, “I feel quicker—my legs aren’t heavy when I run.” And then there’s me, surrounded by $100,000 worth of equipment typically found in a
pro team’s training room. It’s not bad spending an hour in the big leagues.

This article was originally published in 5280 May 2014.
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at daliahsinger.com.