Tell us about your journey and what inspired you to start Atlas Foam Rolling & Stretch Therapy
Before I began this adventure, I initially graduated from college overweight, out of shape & with very limited flexibility. Because of the weight gain, sedentary lifestyle and poor postural habits, I developed back & knee pain issues. As an 8-year veteran emergency room paramedic I had helped many people before realizing I needed to help myself so I could continue to help others. Over the years, I sustained numerous back injuries and knee problems from kneeling on hard surfaces to start IV’s along with performing other medical procedures that placed an unnatural strain on my back & neck. I sought out many doctors that could not assure me that the results I was looking for would last. The practitioners would suggest a pain management routine. That routine including the typical daily narcotics routine mixed with an ineffective physical therapy. Those options were unacceptable so I sought out a more natural & sustainable solution to my chronic pain problem. To my pleasant surprise, the solution found me in the form of a simple black foam roller at a local 24-hour fitness. Within minutes of my first foam rolling experience at the local 24-hour fitness I was obsessed with foam rolling. That magical experience eventually led to my ADD style obsession with the combination of stretching & foam rolling.
Over the next couple of years, I felt as though I saw major improvement in my posture and flexibility. As a typical guy thinks, I was certain that foam rolling was enough, maintaining that all my problems were all solved with a foam roller. My girlfriend at the time, Katina, a very talented massage therapist convinced me otherwise. She suggested that I work on my flexibility & posture more often. She even took the initiative to ease me into an agonizingly painful but also pleasurable experience. Even though I was up for it & did it, she continued to take photos of my poor posture. She then made sure that I remember by texting me the photo. That photo or series of photos gave me a constant reminder to continue to improve my general posture. Initially it was annoying but the visual kept me focused. Katina then convinced me to see a specialist. To make her happy I met with a young enthusiastic chiropractor named Ryan Bones.
My plan was to only see Dr. Ryan Bones for only one month to placate Katina, instead over the next 6 months Dr. Bones and I become great friends. Dr. Ryan Bones worked with me for over a 6-month period re-aligning my bones. Dr. Bones focused on my spine, pelvis and neck. After a month, I talked Ryan into helping me with my flexibility. Week after week I would visit Dr. Bones for an adjustment to improve upon my new-found obsession with flexibility gains; I wanted to keep those gains so I just kept going. I followed his advice related to standing posture & sleeping posture; believe me I worked on it daily so that Dr. Bones would give me that “Dr. Happy Nod” vs. a frustrated earful lecture chin down type of head shake. After our sessions, I continued to foam roll and stretch so that the improvements we made would stick! After every visit my flexibility not only improved but Dr. Ryan Bones was surprised at how flexible I was becoming. It almost felt like I had a new superpower. Those improvements inspired me to create the “Foam Rolling and Stretch Therapy” program.
The “Foam Rolling Fitness & Stretch Therapy” program was not an easy program to initially begin. I started out with zero clients in my apartment gym until a representative from Class Pass reached out to me. They initially asked me if I had a studio location and of course I said “Yes.” Through Class Pass I started a program in my local apartment building in the West End of Dallas called “Foam Rolling Fitness.” The first month was just unbelievable! In the first month, there was so much interest that the apartment complex studio location I was almost evicted. All my clients at that time were gained through Class Pass. They saturated the apartment gym in West End Dallas. Different types of Class Pass clients sought out my class for foam rolling and injury recovery vs. the strength training aspect of the name “Foam Rolling Fitness.” I encouraged Clients to leave me feedback so I could improve the program to fit their individual needs. Some reviews were good, some bad and some were obviously polite. To keep the program running I had to work quickly to find a studio that was affordable & in the local Dallas area. FITNZ360 was the studio that I refined my techniques that eventually led to a program success but it was not easy getting there.
For the next year FITNZ360 was at the center of my second “studio experience.” Initially I was looking to create a foam rolling and strength training program but most people were coming to my class for foam rolling and injury recovery instead of the Strength Training/Foam Rolling program I had such success with. So, I went with it. I decided to utilize my experimental skills that I had mastered in college at UTD & decided to create 2 classes. The first class was specific to foam rolling and the second was specific to stretching, foam rolling and strength training. Using the Class Pass rating system, the “Foam Rolling” class had high ranking & great reviews while the other “Stretch/Strength Training” class had mixed reviews. My conclusion was that the Class Pass clients really loved the stretching and the foam rolling while not expecting or sincerely enjoying the added “Strength Training” modality. Foam Rolling and Stretch Therapy was born in just over 2 years. It is now known as Atlas Stretch Therapy. The new location for this therapy is at Diesel Fitness in Uptown Dallas.
What makes Atlas Foam Rolling & Stretch Therapy unique?
We have developed a foam rolling class that is fun, challenging, effective & most importantly offers the Stretch Therapy Bar! unlike all the other typical stretching & foam rolling classes they have tried over the years Foam Rolling Fitness & Stretch Therapy was developed from the “Foam Rolling Fitness” all Class Pass member enjoyed. It combines the best of foam rolling, stretching and body twisting methods to achieve therapeutically driven muscle rehabilitative results in 55 min. Simply put, we knock out your back & body pain in 55 min.
This class offers its clients access to the only patented handheld foam roller & Stretch Therapy Bar in the world; no class in the entire world has access the Stretch Therapy Bar! Most importantly, what makes this class so unique is the unique Stretch Therapy protocol based methods that guides the use of the Atlas Stretch Therapy deep tissue muscle manipulating tools. Instead of worrying about your past injuries slowing you down we fight through those aches and pains. The typical studio experience focuses on the group over the individual but not us! We focus on the individual in a group setting. There is no pre-defined or rehearsed routine that this class follows. The beauty of “Foam Rolling & Stretch Therapy” is that each session is extremely unique. You never get the same expected experience twice! The 55-min session begins with every client stating their “muscle or joint complaint.” We address every single complaint in the 55-min session and prove it by taking before and after pictures. Soon we will take quantitative measurements! If an acute complaint, an unexpected complaint, appears as we flow through the session the entire class diverts to that individuals sudden “pain complaint.” Does this class sound unique?
Stretch Therapy methods are unique. They are meant to be “extreme muscle & joint manipulation” in the group setting. Think of this class as a boot camp session that hyper-focuses on unique combination stretching and foam rolling. Our inspiration has been draw from some of our very favorite injury recovery therapies such as physical therapy, chiropractic therapy, Pilates, yoga, reflexology and breathing techniques draw off the Chinese deeply controlled breathing & stress relief methods of Chi Quong.
How did you build your client base?
Varying demographics of Class Pass clients sought out my class for foam rolling and injury recovery. We were wrong when anticipating a market or a need for the strength training aspect of the name “Foam Rolling Fitness.” I encouraged Clients to leave me feedback so I could improve the program to fit their individual needs. Some reviews were very good, some bad and some were generously polite. So how did we impress & continue to impress all different demographics of clients that seek our foam rolling & stretching expertise?
Initially my big experiment to create the best foam rolling & strength training class Dallas had ever seen. Most clients that passed through the FITNZ360 studio were Class Pass clients. They were encouraged clients to rate their experience verbally and on the Class Pass rating platform. As it turned out, Class Pass members did not enjoy the mixed foam rolling & strength training program.
As stated earlier, we initially started out with zero clients until Class Pass reached out to us. To reach potential customers we attempted to build our client base through both Groupon & the local Craig’s List online portal. We quickly learned that both Craig’s List & even Groupon were not the best way to reach potential clients. In January of 2014 a Class Pass Representative contacted us about offering an experience in the upcoming Dallas based Class Pass market. Since our past efforts with grassroots, Craig’s List and Groupon had failed to achieve our desired results to create the most dynamic foam rolling & strength training group training experience we were excited to sign up. Working with Class Pass enabled us to re-launch our program & even take it to another level of expertise.
We never anticipated our client base to be so diverse before working with Class Pass. As it turns out, our client base is extremely diverse because everyone can benefit from stretching & foam rolling. We found out through talking with many of our Class Pass clients that the real attraction was rooted in injury recovery, injury prevention & fast flexibility improvements while also obliquely liking it for its core strength training effect.
When we ask Class Pass clients “what attracted them to our studio” they typically tell us that they have some muscle-joint injury complaint and our methods seem to address the problem. We observed our clients still had a passion for yoga classes, pilates classes, triathlons, golfing etc… They were looking for a “quick fix” to get them back performing well in the programs they had a passion for. We decided that our position was to become the “middle man.” We focus on those acute or chronic injuries offering a quick fix no matter what challenges we faced in doing so. Interestingly, we discovered that Class Pass clientele would admit that yoga, Pilates & other therapies were not helping their muscle strain or joint pain problem. They all agreed that they wasted money & time, typically a year, on doctor visits and sub-par physical therapy sessions that did not address the complaint in an effective way. We took on & continue to refine our process to service the tough cases. Whether individuals were injured in CrossFit classes, yoga class, pilates and other high intensity driven programs that they loved we offered a solution to their pain problem. Our goal is to get them healthy and get them back into those programs that they have a passion for and excel in.
Since we have gathered so much detailed data and interactions through our own Class Pass experience it has led to an effective grassroots style advertising campaign. In addition to Class Pass our website blog, inspired by the monthly Class Pass newsletter, draws in different clients all over the DFW metroplex. Our most recent efforts however are efforts that focus on traditional grassroots & referral based interactions. We reach out to gym owners, trainers, studios and all other wellness related businesses encouraging them to send us their clients so we can “fix them, teach them and send them back smiling.”
What are all the unique ways you can use this roller?
The Atlas Foam Roller is the most dynamic foam roller on the market. It is a foam roller with handles! The handles allow for total control of the foam roller movement and direction; the handles also allow for deep compression if the user simply pulls up on the handles causing a deep tissue myofascial release of the golgi tendon apparatus within the nerve bundles of musculoskeletal tissue. There are two different densities for those that enjoy the high density vs. a medium density option. The black foam indicates “High Density” for those that prefer deep tissue compression, the red or blue foam option are slightly less dense for a more comfortable “easing” into a foam rolling experience. The type of foam you choose depends on your needs. If you have muscle sensitivities, then choose the medium density option. But if you can handle high compression loads on your muscles and joints I recommend the Black High Density Roller option.
There are many ways to use & manipulate this foam roller to either simply foam roll, stretch or integrate a “body twist.” You can use this foam roller with other foam rollers or you can use it as a strength training tool. We recommend that the roller be used as a foam rolling & body twisting stretch tool but it up to the individual to decide how the Atlas Roller best fits their unique training style. Let’s just say, that there are hundreds of ways to use the Atlas Foam Roller & most importantly it pops your back instantly giving you that desired effect every single time! How do we know the roller is effective, what moves are the most effective and how long the roller lasts? Hundreds of Class Pass clients gave their verbal and non-verbal input. It was the people that helped develop the moves that we use & teach whether it is on our YouTube channel, at an expo or in a Stretch Therapy Foam Rolling session.
What do you hope your clients take away from your classes?
By the end of each session many of our clients that could not touch their toes to be able to touch their toes in 55 min or within 2 sessions; that claim is well documented with progress photos and testimonials. Some of our clients have cried-out in disbelief after the session because they had never been able to touch their toes! Our main goal is to give each client at least 2.5-5” of flexibility in a single session and give them the tension or pain relief they desire. Simply put, we want all our clients to leave the session with more flexibility, less pain while leaving with a huge smiling!
We teach simple & complex stretch methods. These methods benefit all clients that have sustained an injury, chronic musculoskeletal stiffness or obscure muscle & joint discomfort. At the end of a 55-min session we compare a before picture to the after-session photo. We examine the photos and send them to you so you have an idea of where your postural problem areas are. Performing before and after pictures is one of the many reasons people come back to this class because they crave more. All clients experience fast results because of both our methods and our unique equipment. We give clients the tools and the methods to fight pain or discomfort at home associated with chronic back pain, sciatica, scoliosis, fibromyalgia, arthritis, sarcopenia, postural associated pain, chronic leg pain, pain associated with acute injury, inflexibility, general stiffness, general joint pain and many other musculoskeletal problem areas.
Hello, my name is Mark Harman, I am 33 years old and live in Dallas, Texas. I am a paramedic and Stretch Therapy Trainer. I graduated from UTD with a B.S. in Biology with a minor focus in Exercise Science & Metabolism. I love reading, cooking and of course exercise. I enjoy all types of music whether it is jazz, classical, EDM, Rock, some R&B and even country. After graduating college, I was planning on becoming a Physician’s Assistant or Doctor but my goals changed. Over the past two years I have fallen in love with helping others through the Atlas Foam Roller & Stretch Therapy methods.