Can I be a meanie for a moment?! Just for a tiny little short moment… IT’S MY DAY OFF!!!
Today is a Saint-Jean-Baptiste day in Quebec. This obviously means that there’s no work. I couldn’t be happier to spend this day with two of my favorite munchkins and watch Italy vs. Uruguay FIFA game with some friends! *Go Italy Go!*
Yesterday was my sissy’s *sister-in-law* prom. She looked stunning, and I couldn’t be any prouder!
*Do I look the youngest in this picture? Well, you are wrong! I am the oldest… I preserve well! Haha! Oh, and maybe, just MAYBE, I’d look a little more mature if I wore heels, but I was hiding my ugly toe nail… BUMMER!*
Continuing on to the foot subject. A few days ago I received an email from one of my readers. Here is the question he asked:
“I am wondering if you had to spend a lot of time doing the exercise in the picture I attached, and if so, was it as painful as it looks?”
Gosh… I never liked foot stretches! They were the death of me!
We indeed did quite a bit of them. This doesn’t come as a surprise, I hope. The ability to point your toes and show off your ‘arch’ is crucial to success of a rhythmic gymnast. Not only pointed feet look more aesthetically beautiful and impressive, a failure to point them enough could cost you a few points. *True story!*
Some of the girls I trained with had naturally flexible feet. My feet, however, always cramped up, no matter how many exercises I did.
This paints a familiar picture of what was happening at the gym before a class began: Girls trying to warm up and stretch as much as possible. That being said, I’ve got to point out a small technical error in this image: Your heels should always touch each other, otherwise, this exercise is pointless because you are getting the stretch in all the wrong places.
Here is another good stretch.
Did you know that foot stretches are important for runners too? Doing the mentioned above stretches on a regular basis can even help with shin splits. According to Coach Sommer, ‘… tight anterior tibialis (the muscle that runs up and down along the front of the shin), in combination with micro-traumas to the muscle’s attachment to the bone, are the primary cause of shin splints. As gymnasts, shin splints can occasionally be an issue for some athletes. Aggressively stretching the tibialis coupled with high-rep low-intensity sets of toe raises (where the toes are lifted off the ground, rather than the heel as in calf raises) will usually resolve shin splints in short order.’
Finally, I found a really great article at Runner’s World on how to strengthen your feet and ankles. Try doing the following exercises 3-4 times a week and you should see a difference pretty soon.
THE MONOPOLY GAME:
Put 10 small objects on the floor–like marbles or Monopoly pieces–and place a small cup nearby. Using your toes, pick up the pieces one at a time and put them in the cup. Do two sets of 10 with each foot.
THE DRUNK FLAMINGO:
Standing on stable ground, balance on one foot with your eyes open. Once you can do that for one minute, try it with your eyes closed. Master that and then move to an unstable surface–like a mini-trampoline, foam block, wobble board, or Bosu trainer. “Balancing helps strengthen your ankles and feet as well as your core,” Schneider says.
Loop one end of an exercise band around a sturdy table leg or bedpost. Sit with your legs straight in front of you, and loop the other end around the top part of one foot. The band should be anchored straight in front of you, and it should be taut when your foot is pointed away from you. Pull your toes toward you, keeping your leg straight. Go as far as your ankle will let you. Release slowly, returning to the starting position. Do two sets of 20 on each leg.
BENT-KNEE WALL STRETCH:
Runners often forget to stretch the soleus – a muscle deep in the calf that attaches to the Achilles. “Doing a calf stretch with a straight leg hits the gastrocnemius, but that’s only half the battle,” Schneider says. Here’s how to target the soleus: Stand with your palms against a wall, one leg forward, one leg back. Lower into a “seated” position with legs bent. Lean into the wall until you feel it in your back calf. Hold 30 to 45 seconds then switch legs.
NEGATIVE CALF RAISES:
Stand on a step with your toes on the edge and your heels hanging off. Push up with both feet into a calf raise. Lift one leg off the step, and lower your other leg so that your heel drops below the step. Take at least 10 seconds to lower it all the way down–that’s the eccentric part of the move and has been shown to help prevent Achilles tendinitis.
Sit down barefoot and cross your right leg so that your ankle rests on your left thigh. Hold your toes and bend them back toward your shin, stretching the plantar fascia. A study showed that people suffering from plantar fasciitis had a 77 percent chance of returning to full activity within three to six months after performing this stretch. Researchers suggest that you do the stretch 10 times at least three times a day (once or twice a day doesn’t produce as strong of an effect).
Do you remember to warm up and stretch your feet before going for a run? What are your most favorite exercises?