New Glenview fitness franchise focuses on the benefits of stretching

After talking with Ben Smith, the energetic and enthusiastic owner of Glenview’s Stretch Zone, I felt like he was pitching his new location directly to me.

First Smith states, “our target age group is around the 50 to 70 year olds.” Okay, hands up here, I’m right in the middle of that famous age group.

Smith then adds, “this is especially good for those who may have a little trouble getting out of bed in the morning.” Okay, that’s too close to home.

And then adds “for those who need to increase their flexibility and range of motion to improve their daily functions.” They might as well put me on the front cover of their brochure.

So, with that introduction hitting too close to home, I welcome you to Glenview’s newest addition to unique and distinctive fitness and health: The Stretch Zone, located at 2671 Navy Blvd., right in the heart of The Glen, and specialized in nothing but the art, technique and benefits of stretching.

Keep in mind that this is not your run-of-the-mill stretching and exercise prep situation, but instead a scientifically researched program targeting intensive and clinical stretching as a way to feel better, perform better, and improve mobility and muscle function.


“All of our doctors go through an intensive training and certification program,” Smith said. “People of all ages will feel the value of this. It can help the 55-year-old golfer with the flexibility he needs, the avid weightlifter, the young athlete, anyone who competes in sports, or just the average person who wants to feel better, be healthy and remain free from injury and pain.”

Smith is one of three owners of Glenview’s Stretch Zone. The other two may be familiar to you. Older Glenview football fans may remember Jason Loerzel, a Park Ridge native and Maine South AllStater in 1997, who as a linebacker, defensive end and wide receiver for the Hawks regularly torched our beloved Titans and Spartans.

The third owner? You may have heard of him. One of the best NFL quarterbacks of all time and surefire soon to be Hall of Famer Drew Brees who played for the New Orleans Saints.

All three played college ball back in the day at Purdue University.

“We were all part of the class of 1997,” Smith said. “We lived together and became best friends, and even after our collegiate careers ended, we remained close, going on family vacations together and visiting often. We’ve always talked about the three of us going into some kind of business venture, but it kind of had to wait for Drew to finish his pro football career.”

That turned out to be quite a long wait. Brees had a remarkable and lengthy 20-year NFL career, setting numerous records along the way, and only recently decided to retire at the age of 41.

Then finally the business venture presented itself and the idea came almost by accident.

“Drew had tried the Stretch Zone down in Louisiana and he really liked it,” Smith said. “He thought it was a unique idea with great potential, so he contacted us and said, ‘Hey, I think I have something that could really work for us.’ “

That was the beginning and it grew from there.

Stretch Zone is a national franchise with more than 200 locations nationwide. The three friends – Smith, Loerzel and Brees – decided to give it a try. They’ve purchased six locations in Louisiana (Brees has his New Orleans connections and Loerzel lives there now, as his wife is from the area), and also opened three in Indianapolis.

Their 10th and final location? Right here in Glenview.

“We were looking for the right place,” Loerzel said. “We looked at Park Ridge, Highland Park, Arlington Heights and a few others, but the location in Glenview seemed perfect for us. And due to the recent pandemic, window displays were available at reasonable prices.

“Hopefully this will be the first of many here in the Chicago area,” said Loerzel, who, when asked about his memories of playing against Glenbrook South and North, politely said, “Yeah, I think we took it pretty easy with them then, if I remember correctly.”

Unfortunately for Spartan and Titan fans back then, he remembered correctly. And even though I was just talking to him on the phone, I could almost feel Loerzel smiling on the other end of the line.

But now the former Maine South star and his two longtime friends are fully into the community that used to be one of his arch rivals. Karma in reverse, beautiful thing.

But back to the Stretch Zone itself, which opened last May, it’s a place where they really focus on the specific fitness aspect of stretching, which has always been part of most fitness routines – usually before or after running, swimming, lifting , etc.

But here? Stretching is taken to a whole other level. That is their only focus. At Stretch Zone, practitioners do the work, taking you through the full range of motion, lifting, pulling and stretching your muscles, perhaps to limits you never knew they could reach. Although most of this is done by trained hands, in some cases bands, belts and straps are used for assistance.

The end result? A post-stretch feeling that rejuvenates the whole body, reduces minor aches and pains, improves muscle mobility and flexibility, and improves performance in almost any type of physical activity.

It’s a unique concept just waiting to catch on.

“Our biggest challenge,” Smith said, “is getting the word out to the community that we’re here and the help we can offer. We’re really excited about the Glenview location and hope it takes off just as our other nine have all been successful.”

So, for anyone looking for a different type of training experience, here it is. Our newest offering right here in our hometown.

I’m unfortunately out of town as I write this, but the guys have promised me a free visit when I get back.

Considering the weird popping sound my bones make every time I stand up these days, and the slow and painful approach to getting out of bed or worse, out of the car after a long drive — I’ll definitely take them up on that offer.

In fact, the way things are going, I might even ask about a lifetime membership.

• John Cohn of Glenview is a coach, retired physical education teacher, athletic official and prep sports enthusiast. To contact him with comments or story ideas, email [email protected]

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