Why Take Flexibility Progress Pictures?

Tips for getting the most out of flexibility progress pictures
Ashleigh Flanagan
March 9, 2022

Why Take Flexibility Progress Pictures?

I advocate taking progress photos to track flexibility training and target the aesthetic you are after. The main reason is that it always feels awful when you challenge yourself training flexibility. Stretching only feels ‘good’ when you are in familiar ranges that don’t challenge you. At least some level of challenge to our system is required to make progress. 

Your sympathetic nervous system enacts a fight/ flight response when you challenge yourself in training. Think of it as your subconscious self saying, ‘this is new. Are you sure about this?’. You may feel nervous, notice your heart racing, and experience a strong desire to stop doing what you are doing. At this time, you are more sensitive to pain (things that wouldn’t usually be painful are painful) and have less pain tolerance (ability to access skills and strategies that help you ‘sit with’ pain) than usual. You are also more likely to experience unhelpful emotions and thoughts that make you less likely to continue your training. It’s common to have sessions where you feel disheartened, hopeless, and think you will never improve. It’s part of the fight or flight response and is unlikely to reflect reality. This is the perfect time to use photos as evidence of your progress. 

When to take progress pictures

I encourage people to take progress pictures from the beginning of their flexibility training journey. So often, people feel needlessly embarrassed or self-conscious, but we all have to start somewhere! By the time you begin to feel good about your progress you have missed recording the efforts of a lot of hard work and dedication.

It’s best to take progress pics after a training session or class. Be warmed up. Pushing yourself to get deeper ‘for the gram’ is an excellent way to injurer yourself and slow your progress.

You don’t need to take a progress pic every time you train. Suppose it isn’t a great training day for you, it’s ok to leave the pic till next time, especially if you feel your confidence will take a hit. Being consistent is more important. Try to get a progress pic at least once every three months. If you feel taking progress pics monopolises your training time or becomes unhelpful, limit yourself to once a month.

How to take a progress picture or video

If you are really serious about using pictures to track your progress, you need to standardise your photos as well as you can. 

To standardise photos and videos;

Camera angle and height make a difference
Taking your before photo from too high an angle, while flattering means you dont get to see the true extent of your progress.

Other things to consider:

Apps that measure angles on photos are inaccurate

The angles that you use to make your lines look better aren't the best from tracking progress

But what if your progress pics don’t show progress?

Flexibility varies from day to day, depending on so many things. The things that will impact your flexibility the most in the short term are stress, poor sleep, overtraining/under-recovery, pain/injury, and inadequate hydration. Progress should be judged over the mid to long term, months to years rather than session to session. If you are training consistently, working on your weaknesses and being goal-specific, you are almost certainly making progress. 

Signs of flexibility progress

Often an increase in joint range is the last sign of progress. It’s important to recognise and acknowledge all signs of improvement that can include;

-You require less warm-up to get to the same range.
-You are more comfortable at the same range.
-You can hold the stretch for longer.
-Your active flexibility or control in the stretch has improved.
-Your alignment has improved.
-You can move in and out of the stretch more efficiently or with more variety.
-It takes less time to recover.
-You feel more confident training flexibility.
-You have more ‘good’ flexibility days than stiff/sore days.
-You feel more optimistic during your training.
-You are training more consistently.
-You notice less unhelpful intrusive thoughts during your training such as ‘ill never get any -better, ‘I can’t tolerate this’, ‘this if not possible for me’, or ‘if it hurts I’m doing something wrong.’
-Other people notice your improvement even if you don’t.

Amazing Progress!

Final thoughts

Progress pics can be helpful, but they aren't everything. Sometimes the perfect progress picture breaks all the rules. Therefore, it's always important to remind yourself why you are training flexibility anytime you take a progress pic.

Sometimes the perfect progress pic breaks all of the rules :)

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