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Bodies On Tables

Rui Saraiva’s Stretch Health Canada provides a transformative fusion of massage, stretching and fascial work that’s changing lives – including his own.

By Fitness Business Insider

Stretch Health Canada integrates massage, stretching, and fascial work to improve performance and restore pain-free mobility for all their clients. With two locations in London, Ontario and another in Kitchener-Waterloo, the business is accumulating eager devotees whose lives are quite literally transformed by the therapeutic mixed modality practice. Stretch therapy evangelist and company Founder Rui Saraiva knows his enterprise is relatively fresh out of the gate, but with powerful persistence and a continuous stream of satisfied customers, he’s expanding into new markets and drawing the attention of the fitness industry, hands-on body workers and eager clientele.

Rui began his personal training career using conventional resistance and conditioning programs but recognized early on that myofascial release and stretching had the power to change lives and impact performance. “I realized that if my clients wanted to achieve optimal strength and easy of movement, it would have to begin with restoring flexibility,” he says.

Rui dove deep into studying mobility assessment protocols and techniques. Then, at a two-day conference, he did a hands-on stretch therapy certification – his first real exposure to manual body work. “After that, I was completely hooked,” he says.

Rui started using his new techniques with clients in the gym, blending one-on-one stretch therapy into training sessions, and received more than a few interested inquiries from passersby. “I knew there was a demand for it is based on the feedback that I was getting from the clientele I was treating.”

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Hoodlum to Hero

Helping clients restore their quality of life by making daily activities easier and more enjoyable has been one of the most rewarding things for Rui, but it wasn’t always that way. Rui wasn’t always a stellar citizen.

At one critical crossroads in his youth, he found himself standing in front of a judge, criminally charged on two counts. “I was heading down a very dark path and I know what would have happened had I continued doing what I was doing,” he recalls quietly. “Standing in front of the judge, I got a sort of a signal from the universe where I could see road in front of me. “

To negotiate a conditional discharge, Rui’s lawyer mentioned that his client wanted to serve his country and had started his application process for the military. Rui was released and would go on to airborne infantry training in the Canadian Armed Forces as well as the highly competitive Firefighter Education & Training program at Humber College where he was designated Platoon Leader.

“It’s a big part of my story that I don’t always openly talk about it, but if it helps inspire someone to kind of get their s**t together and pursue something greater, that’s terrific,” says Rui. “It was a slap in the face for me to smarten up and make something of myself.”

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Hands-On Education

As his PT career expanded, the kick-ass bootcamp instructor who jumped out of planes and fought fires realized that the drill sergeant approach was not going to benefit his clients as much as helping them stretch. Rui advanced through all the levels of stretch therapy and returned to school for his massage therapy certification. The RMT designation broke down financial barriers and expanded his accessibility because it allowed people to use extended health benefits towards treatments.

Then, Rui decided to take a road trip to the US where the stretch clinic concept is more firmly established. He wanted to investigate the possibility replicating the concept north of the border, so he drove to a clinic in Bloomfield Hills, MI to ask about franchising, revenue generation, payroll, etc.  

“I was lucky enough to get my initial consult with a manager who was able to answer all my questions,” says Rui who got back in his car and started crunching numbers. Back home London, he spoke with certified colleagues, and they were eager to hop on board. Rui opened his first location in July 2019.

The Next Stretch

Educating and outreach are critical parts of the Stretch Health Canada agenda. While rehabilitation and mobility conversations often mention massage therapy, physiotherapy, and chiropractic care, stretch therapy is still an outlier and not recognized by insurers. It will take time and education for stretch therapy to become a part of the mainstream rehab and mobility conversation.

“We’re still very much in our infancy stage,” Rui confesses. “Not many people know we exist, or what we really do. I could tell them: we focus on one-on-one stretch therapy to help with chronic pain and mobility, and most people still can’t conceptualize what that actually means. So, our philosophy for generating leads is a simple phrase: Bodies on tables.”

Stretch Health Canada participates in numerous community events, workshops, festivals, and lunch-and-learn seminars because bodies on tables is the best marketing. “Once you experience the session all the dots start to connect and people refer friends and family,” Rui says.

The techniques and tools used in the clinic are similar to those used in massage but introduced in a different format. The therapists – a mix of RMTs and kinesiologists – use everything from PNF technique and active release to dynamic stretch and peripheral joint mobilizations. Clients come in wearing shorts and T-shirts and realize that this very functional, very dynamic therapy is not your typical lotion-and-linen relaxation massage. And their movement and liiives are changed because of it.

As Stretch Health Canada continues to recruit dedicated fans, Rui is looking expand beyond his three facilities and his two satellite golf club locations. “My next big step is continuing to develop leaders,” he says. “That’s my big bottleneck right now. I want to focus my efforts on growth and expansion and the only way I’m going to be able to do that is if I have strong managers in place to carry on with operations where I cannot be.”

Franchising may be the best option down the road, but for now, Rui and the Stretch Health Canada team are persistently converting one body at a time to the transformative power of stretch therapy.

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