RUNNERS ANKLE FLEXIBILITY MAY REVEAL THEIR AGE, so as good as might you look as you train and compete in the latest trendy performance apparel, ankle “biomechanical plasticity” could be better at showing your age group.
“5 Ways to Strengthen Weak Ankles” by Prevention for ACTIVE.com provides some moves that will get you started. It includes 3 stretches (peroneal, dorsiflexion, and Achilles) plus 2 mobility routines: ankle circles and alphabet writing.
Those who want more than an introduction to ankle work might check out the lengthy and in-depth discussion with exercise and stretch video that Jarlo has developed on his website GMB.io/feet. Feet, ankle, calf issues are addressed in this unit.
I tried the foot and ankle exercises. A bit smugly because I’ve been doing some, on and off, for about 2 years. Ever since I had a severe plantar fasciitis problem and was prescribed a few of the same moves to help with that problem. I’ve found that the ‘alphabet writing’ and circles did leave my feet and ankles tired after 3 sets but felt confident about my ability to do them. And the step-ladder calf stretches have remained a part of my daily stretch routine because they definitely are the best for working out calf stiffness, in my experience (I use stair steps not a ladder).
To trial this set of exercises I started with the first exercise on the list, foot circles/toes flexed (curled). Piece of cake, I thought. Ow! Ow! Ow! The voice on the video warns about cramping and of course my foot cramped almost immediately. After several days of practice, just like the video says, the cramping has lessened.
Next, I found that the foot diagonal exercises were extremely hard to perform, and they still are. Not painful; my range of motion is quite limited though. I can plantar flex (point the toes) my foot only a few degrees. The remainder of the exercises listed were not as difficult, but could be improved upon. The last one, calf raises, are difficult but thankfully not for me. Because my calf problem in the summer of 2017 involved physical therapy, I was prescribed 3 sets of 10 repetitions, several times each day. Now do one set almost daily.
If unsure that this area of the body is important for you to mobilize and strengthen, try doing some of the recommended exercises each day for a week. Beforehand, do a set of lunges, regular and lateral squats, planks, and mountain climbers. Or any exercises you regularly perform that require moving the bulk of your body lower to the ground, with feet on the ground and foot or ankle flexed. Note the degree of difficulty. Try the same moves after the week of ankle/foot work and again take note of the difficulty. If you perceive improvement in ease of performance, like I did, it may be because of the ankle and foot exercises.
Research suggests that stiff ankles may add to the running biomechanics of older age. Test this theory if you like, and perhaps after a period of such training you’ll move like a younger athlete.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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