Chris Merrell offers virtual reality workouts to help clients find wellness and fitness that works for them. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly

“Revolutionary.” “Euphoric.” “Life-Changing.” 

This is what body tempering clients are saying about the innovative new service now being offered at Beyond Traditional Wellness (BTW) in Tavernier.

When Chris Merrell opened up the boutique fitness and wellness center in the Upper Keys, he knew he wanted to help people feel great in their bodies. The storefront has since moved to Tavernier, but the health enthusiast continues to offer fully personalized, tailored training plans for his clients. These aren’t cookie-cutter New Year’s resolution-style plans. Rather, Merrell talks with clients to understand their challenges, goals and needs. Then he uses his years of training in fitness coaching and recovery therapies to customize workouts and recovery options that optimize results. 

“You can’t just train,” the fitness guru said. “You gotta train and recover. Fitness is a balance of training and recovery.” This two-pronged approach explains why Merrell’s offerings always include so much more beyond traditional wellness – way more than the typical gym with a bunch of machines.

Body tempering is the newest recovery service Merrell is offering, and clients are loving it.

“Body tempering is a method of soft tissue manipulation,” he said. “It’s a myofascial release technique using heavy tools – 20 to 80 pounds or more – as rollers that apply constant and steady pressure into a muscle. Through this, a deeper relaxation of that muscle group can be achieved.”

Myofascia is the connective tissue covering everything in the body. Similar to tendons and ligaments, fascia wraps around muscles and body parts to hold them together. And, just as everyday stress from life can build up muscle tensions, it can also increase myofascial tensions. Massage helps release the former while body tempering can release the latter. 

The gist: You lie on a massage-like pad on the floor, and Merrell adds weighted rollers onto specific areas of your body holding tension. Each body part will take a different load amount of weights – 50 pounds on the glutes, 20 on the arms and feet and more on the broad back muscles – and each person will vary in their pressure tolerance. The rollers can be manipulated across muscles for a dynamic stretch, and more weight can be added. If a client wants or needs more, Merrell can expertly leverage himself into the weights, too. At each step, he asks what the pressure feels like on a scale from 1 to 10. “I’ll know if the pressure gets to a 5 or 7 because the breathing changes, like a deep stretch,” he said. That’s the sweet spot.

The weight statically compresses your muscles, and your body pushes back against that weight, but you’re in a passive state. This is key. “The pressure forces you into the deep breathing that is required for muscles and myofascial tension to truly relax,” Merrell said. The treatment creates a deep – but passive – stretch, allowing for a profound release of stubborn tension. 

“When pressure is removed, the body will flood that area with blood flow, and blood flow heals everything,” Merrell added. “With pressure, you can flush things out.”

As a bonus, tempering counts as a form of strength training and can be helpful for older clients like his snowbirds to maintain strength.

“I’ve been a licensed massage therapist for 10 years, and I’d pick body tempering over massage,” Merrell said. “It’s faster. Thirty minutes of body tempering can feel like a 90-minute massage because of that constant and controlled pressure. A human can only push to the capacity that they’re fit enough to push. Gravity, on the other hand, is always going to be constant. Eighty pounds of steel rollers will always be 80 pounds.”

So, who can benefit? Anyone.

“This is a game changer for people with chronic pain,” Merrell said. 

That deep release helped Upper Keys fishing guide Drew Moret, who came in “suffering from  back pain with nerve pain down my leg that was debilitating, to say the least.” He changed his schedule and took less business because of the pain. Five 30-minute body tempering sessions later, he no longer has pain. 

“Chris and body tempering have been nothing short of life-changing for me,” Moret raved. “This is a revolutionary approach to pain, and Chris is on the forefront of this. … I was suffering. … (Now,) I am happy to say that due to Chris, I am 100 percent pain-free.”

After body tempering, another client brought her entire family to meet Chris at the restaurant where he works. She introduced him: “This is Chris. Chris saved my life.” 

Merrell himself used tempering to deepen his squats. The “flushing” allowed him to go much deeper after just one rolling session. 

So, if you suffer from chronic pain, need to give yourself a quality recovery or want to try something new and good for you, consider this your friendly PSA to try body tempering at BTW.