HIGHLAND PARK, IL — A pair of personal trainers has expanded their stretch therapy business to a second location following three years of success in southwestern Highland Park.

After working together at the Vernon Hills Lifetime Fitness, Marc Neuman and Joe Faber went into business together to form Stretchwerks, the first flexibility and mobility center in the North Shore at 233 Skokie Valley Road.

Neuman worked at Lifetime for more than a decade, eventually becoming director of training and beginning to do stretch therapy with clients. Before starting at the Vernon Hills gym, Faber worked at the Equinox in Highland Park, where he continued to split his time.

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Faber said he was very “one-note” as a trainer when he first started working with Neuman about eight years ago.

“I had the training side, but I didn’t have any of the recovery side of the work, and I had come to Lifetime and I saw Marc doing this really unique stretching work with some of his clients, and I was very intrigued,” Faber told Patch.

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So Faber did one of Neuman’s treatment sessions and came away positively impressed.

“I was like, ‘Wow, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for,'” Faber said.
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After getting certified by the Arizona-based Stretch to Win Institute, Faber started to employ the stretching techniques at the end of every session with clients at the gym.

“And it got to a place where they enjoyed the work so much, and they got such benefits from it that they just really didn’t want to do much personal training anymore, they just wanted to do more and more of this fascial stretch therapy work,” he said. “That was kind of the first indicator that we’re onto something here.”

Neuman said stretch therapy is different from other treatments like massages and chiropractic because it relies on pulling, rather than pressing, on tissue. And he told Patch it differs from yoga and other forms of solo stretching exercises because the person stretching is in a more relaxed state.

“This is a very passive environment where we’re doing most of the work,” Neuman said. “For the most part, they’re in a relaxed state, so you can allow more of what’s called manipulation of the tissue and the joint, versus when you’re trying to do it on your own, it’s very tough to create an element of traction.”

Faber said stretch therapy can provide people with immediate benefits for people who hadn’t experienced the pulling and lengthening of tissues and the decompressing of their joints.

“Look, people can stretch on their own, but they can’t pull on themselves, right?” Faber said. “And I think that’s really the major element of this work, is that traction and that pulling that people cannot do on their own.”

During 2018 and 2019, Neuman, of Libertyville, and Faber, of Lake Forest, prepared to open a business together and received certification from the Gray Institute, a Chicago-based organization that has trademarked the term applied functional science.

Initially, they planned to open up shop in Vernon Hills, but were unable to find a suitable location. In November 2019, they started to build out their location at Crossroads Shopping Center, just south of Clavey Road and Route 41.

Stretchwerks first opened its doors on Feb. 15, 2020. Less than five weeks later, restrictions associated with the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Illinois forced them to remain closed to the public until May 29. But its personal trainer co-owners say they have been growing the business ever since.

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the co-owners said their business benefited by the side-effects of people spending hours on stationary bikes.

“That Peloton craze was probably a good helper and aid in our business, for sure — all the ailments and issues that people had,” Neuman said.

“Everybody went from that same position in front of their screen to an even more aggressive position on the bike,” Faber said. “I mean, think about it: it’s the same position. So, you know, that really compounded the issues that they were having.”

Services at Stretchwerks are generally not covered by health insurance, although every new member or potential client receives a complimentary evaluation with a 55-minute introductory session concluding with a treatment plan, Neuman said.

“This is a mostly out-of-pocket expense,” he said. “We don’t take insurance, sometimes the HSA [health savings accounts] cards do get accepted through our POS [point-of-sale] system, but for the most part it’s out-of-pocket. We do give invoices, here and there, for people to submit to insurance.”

Last month, Neuman and Faber opened their second Stretchwerks location at 175 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Vernon Hills. A grand opening has been scheduled for April 20.

Their fascial stretch therapy practice, which offers a more refined service than other assisted stretching businesses like Stretch Labs and Stretch Zone, provides relief for longer than other forms of treatment, according to its co-owners.

“Life compresses us. Gravity, stress, repetitive motion, sitting, those are really a lot of the key elements we see,” Faber said.

“Especially in the COVID times when everybody was kind of strapped to their desk all day in front of their screen, nobody was moving much, so everybody just got really compressed and just wasn’t feeling well,” he said.

“So they were reaching out to us for relief, to get pulled on and decompressed, because you know, the other forms of body work were just not giving them that long-lasting relief.”

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