Flexibility & ISO

Don't listen to the Kim K's of the world. You won't leave ISO more flexible no matter how hard you work.
Ashleigh Flanagan
March 19, 2022

With more people needing to isolate as close Covid -19 contacts, I am hearing more insta- coaches decree that ISO is no excuse to lose training gains. While I endorse maintaining your training routine, if you can, this sentiment screams of Kim Kardasianesq privilege and lack of insight.

"Get your f**cking a** up and work."

Ref: Kim Kardashian Faces Criticism Over Work Ethic Remarks | The View

Like insta 'tough love' coaches, I'm sure Kim K didn't mean to cause harm, and only wanted to influence, inspire and motivate with her recent comments. I'm sure that her message wasn't meant for those already struggling or unable to work harder. I also assume that she too has been a victim of shame-based motivation, so she doesn't recognise how toxic and ineffective it can be.

Be kind to yourself 

If you can practically continue training in ISO (e.g. you have time available after keeping yourself alive, working from home, homeschooling, caring duties etc.), it's important to be realistic and kind to yourself. As I described in my last post, being in isolation puts an increased load on your system even if you are well. Any challenge to your sense of safety and security can trigger your sympathetic nervous system fight/flight response. This survival response down-regulates rest, recovery, growth, and healing. It means that you need to actively prioritise nutrition, hydration, sleep and self-care. While developing a routine and moving in meaningful ways can be very helpful, iso is not the time to smash yourself or pressure yourself to train more than you usually would.

Read the post here. 

This is especially true for flexibility training because you are loading your body in potentially threatening ways. During times of stress and uncertainty, your tolerance to stretch will be less.

You won't lose flexibility in a week or two…

Flexibility is relatively easy to maintain over time with a little, low-intensity input. If you stay healthy but don't train flexibility at all for a couple of weeks you won't lose flexibility, but you may notice a reduction in your stretch tolerance. This means you will still have your split (for example), but it may feel more uncomfortable than usual for a session or two. The harder and longer you have worked for your flexibility, the easier it will be to maintain or regain (if you end up being out are of action for longer than a couple of weeks). 'Everday stretching'; low load, low intensity stretching that takes you through your available range comfortably, a couple of times a week is likely to maintain your flexibility for a long time.

Read more here: If I Stop Training Flexibility Will I lose It?

…Unless you injure yourself

There is a real increased risk of injury if you suddenly increase your training load or intensity. Putting pressure on yourself to use your time in ISO to increase flexibility may lead you to attempt exercises that your body is not yet conditioned up to.

Flexibility related training injuries usually occur following:

-A change in your programing

-A sudden or dramatic increase in your training load

-Being unwell

-Periods of increased stress

-Poor sleep (athletes who sleep an average of less than 8 hours a night are 1.7 times more likely to be injured in training than those who average more than 8 hours of sleep a night!)

Read the article here: Factors Increasing Risk Training Flexibility

What about if I am Covid-19 positive

In general, training too intensely when you are sick can delay your recovery and increase the length of time before you return to good quality training. While light exercise can be helpful if your symptoms are mild and you are looking for symptom relief, training with a fever, abnormal blood pressure or racing heart can be dangerous. 

If you do feel up to light exercise:

  1. Ensure that you are well hydrated
  2. Keep things low intensity
  3. Monitor your vitals
  4. Regularly check-in and notice how you are feeling
  5. Train outside, if practical
  6. Prioritise things you enjoy
  7. Leave a little in the tank and stop before you need to

To learn more; Training With Illness

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises that 10-20% of all people who catch covid will experience mid to long term symptoms of fatigue, breathlessness and cognitive dysfunction known as Post Covid condition or 'long covid'. There is currently no correlation between the initial severity of COVID-19 infection and the likelihood of developing long covid. While there is no current consensus on minimising the risk of a long covid, other than not catching covid, IMHO prioritising good self-care, rest and sleep, over training is likely to be helpful.

Learn more here: WHO Post Covid Condition

Don't listen to the Kim Ks of the world

You won't come out of isolation more flexible than when you went in no matter how hard you work. A week or two is nothing in your flexibility journey. If you can train, Aim to maintain, be consistent and stay injury free. And remember you dont have to earn the right to rest.

When Training flexibility in ISO:

Prioritise self-care. Eat well, sleep, rest and be mindful. Do what is in your power to manage stress.
Don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself.
Prioritise flexibility training that increases your robustness. Think strengthening through range.
Include flexibility training that normalises stretching inputs. Think supported and sub-max stretches. 
Practice self-soothing before your flexibility training. Think mediation, mindfulness, pleasurable activities, creative hobbies, and calming sensory engagement.
Consider intuitive training and flexible programming. Listen to your body and use this to guide your training rather than being rigidly fixed to a training program.
Train with others (Online or IRL): For most people stretching with others is more enjoyable and increases pain tolerance.

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