Ankle: opposite of Aunty

If you've ever sprained your ankle, you'll know how important ankle mobility is. After a sprain, rehab to the ankle is a must. Instability and weakness aren't only detrimental to ankle function but will also cause anterior knee pain, weakness in your glutes, and heaps more of problems to boot.

But you're in luck cos I'm going to drop some knowledge bombs in the form of 8 critical stretches & moves to help get you back on track.

1 - CALF ROLL OUT 

Soft tissue mobility rollouts can be very beneficial to the dense muscle tissue that can become overactive. Try isolating one calf at a time and use a ball or foam roller to release the calves.

Place one leg on top of the other to apply pressure into the foam roller or ball. You can turn your foot in and out to find a spot that is stiffer.

Make sure you stay on the stiffer spots for one minute. You may find that you have a few spots along the muscle!

Hold for 1 minute for 2 sets.

 

2 - PLANTAR FASCIA ROLL OUT

The plantar fascia is tissue on the bottom of your foot that can affect the mobility of the ankle and foot. It can also become irritated and painful if it becomes too stiff and overstrains.

Our feet rarely have a chance to move with how often we wear shoes, heels, or sandals. To release this tissue, take a ball and roll it on the bottom of your foot.

You may notice one side is more sensitive to the pressure than the other. Roll on the plantar fascia for one minute & repeat twice.

 

3 - STRAIGHT LEG CALF STRETCH

The calf muscle consists of two muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Both play vital roles in calf and ankle mobility.

To target the gastrocnemius, you want to stretch your calf in a straight leg position.

Hold for 1 minute & repeat twice.

 

4 - BENT KNEE CALF STRETCH

Sometimes the gastrocnemius isn’t the muscle that is tight. To stretch the soleus, bend your knee (back leg) and keep your heel down.

Hold for 1 minute & repeat twice.

 

5 - ANKLE ROCKERS

The most common ankle joint to get stiff is the talocrural joint, which is the joint that is right where the ankle meets the foot.

When you flex your foot up or down, you are moving from the talocrural joint. The motion that typically becomes most restricted is dorsiflexion (pointing your foot up).

To target this joint, place one leg back and one leg forward with your forward leg flexed. Keeping your heel down, rock forward as far as you can on the front foot.

Rock back and forth for 10-20 reps for 1 set.

 

6 - INSIDE/OUTSIDE ANKLE ROCKERS

Rock 10-20 times in each direction. You might notice that you are a little more restricted in one corner versus another.

Rock 10-20 times for 1 set.

 

7 - ANKLE CIRCLES

Ankle circles are an overlooked exercise. They allow the ankle to get motion in the entire ankle.

Working in both the clockwise and counterclockwise directions will help ensure you cover enough area. Work each direction 10-20 times.

Clockwise: 10-20 reps for 1 set.
Counterclockwise: 10-20 reps for 1 set.

8 - PLANTAR FACSIA / TOE STRETCH

Many of the muscles that help flex and extend the toes pass the ankle joint to get to the end of the foot. Sometimes they can get locked up along that path.

Take your foot and pull your toes back. You may feel a stretch on the bottom of your foot. Hold for up to one minute.

Hold for 1 minute for 2 sets. 

With these eight exercises and a ball, you can mobilize your ankles anywhere. Next time you feel your ankles start to stiffen up, give this routine a try to get some mobility back!

 

At work? Sore neck/back? Here's some Deskercise for you.

You've probably heard how bad it is for you to be sitting at your desk, in front of a computer all day. And chances are if you have been hunched over at your desk day in, day out you are feeling those pains through your neck, upper back, shoulders, etc. 

Remedial Massage Queenstown

Eight hours of sitting (5 days a week) can really take it's toll on the body, believe it or not, so I've gathered up some easy peasy DESKercises (see what I did there) that you can do right at your desk to help get those muscles loosey goosey all through your work week. You're welcome. 

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Each stretch (both sides) should be held for no less than 30 seconds to 1 minute. This is a good rule of thumb for all stretches. If you're not holding even for 30 seconds you may as well not bother stretching at all. Muscles have memory, and you want them to remember this new resting length you're taking them to.

Desk Stretch 1

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Gently pull each elbow to the opposite side overhead. Hold each position for 30 seconds to 1 minute. If anyone looks at you funny just keep making intense eye contact with them until they look away first. In any office setting it's better to assert your dominance than shy away. 

Desk Stretch 2

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Remaining seated, extend your legs and reach toward your toes. Stare at the office floor and search for lost pens, paper clips or bits of food for 30 seconds to 1 minute. 

Desk Stretch 3

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Hug one knee at a time, pulling it toward your chest. If you're not able to get your knee up to your chest, go to the position that feels comfortable to you. Hold underneath your thigh to help the stretch along. 

Desk Stretch 4

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Clasp your hands in front of you and lower your head in line with your arms. Pretend you know how to dive correctly, by showing this proper technique you will no doubt thoroughly impress your office mates. 

Desk Stretch 5

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Extend each arm overhead and to the opposite side as you imagine you're an overly eager aerobics instructor during each move. This won't add anything to the stretch but will help run the clock down on that 30 seconds - 1 minute countdown.

Desk Stretch 6

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At this point your boss or office supervisor will no doubt approach you and ask you how long you've been stretching. Take this opportunity to answer with a stretch cleverly disguised as a shrug. Raise both shoulders at once up toward the ears. Drop them and repeat.

Desk Stretch 7

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Clasp hands behind your back, push your chest outward, and raise your chin. If you have fluorescent bulbs staring back at you close your eyes and pretend you have non fluorescent bulbs. 

Desk Stretch 8

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Cross your legs and twist toward the back of the chair. Hold for 30 seconds - 1 minute then switch sides. Use the rear-facing position to have a rant with your co-worker about how messy the microwave is and how it wouldn't be like that it people cleaned up after themselves or covered their containers.  

*Pro tip: exhale as you go into the turn for a greater range of motion for this stretch.

Desk Stretch 9

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Gently pull your head toward each shoulder. Keep your head and neck straight, just dip your ear towards the top of your shoulder, like how a dog tilts his head while he try to figure out what the heck you're talking about. 

*Pro tip: Don't take this stretch further than comfortable. every stretch should feel good, if it feels sore or like you're ready to pull something DON'T STRETCH SO FAR. Back off, and only stretch to where it feels good.

Desk Stretch 10

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Clasp hands together above the head, stretching upward. Follow up with a big clap like you're singing along to Queen's Radio Gaga, or something to that effect...

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Only a Runner Doesn’t Laugh at the Word “Fartlek”

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Signed up for the Marathon? Been training hard. My hat goes off to you, starting and keeping up with a regime like that is no easy feat, so good on you. 

Now that you're deep in training mode all those wonderful sore spots and niggles will be rearing their ugly head(s). 

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Keeping on top of those painful spots is not only smart but will literally get you where you need to be faster. Muscles move better and faster when they are healthy - fact. 

To get your body race ready you need to commit to a training schedule, treat injuries and begin strength training. 

WHEN SHOULD A RUNNER GET A MASSAGE?

That answer is anything but straightforward and is dependant on the the objective of the client aka marathon runner extraordinaire.

There are 4 different types of massage that are specific to the above needs; Pre event, post event, general massage (for runners) & injury specific (remedial massage). Each type of massage has a different goal. As a result, there are a number of right times for a runner to receive a sports massage, as long as the type of massage is administered correctly and is in line with your goals. 

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PRE EVENT MASSAGE

Goal: to get the body race ready.

It is important to keep in mind that every one responds differently to massage. This is particularly relevant when it comes to pre-event work. Some love to get really deep work the day before or even the day of an event; some prefer a light flush; others respond best to over-the-clothes compression and quick invigorating work, and some don’t want to be touched at all for the three or four days leading up to a race.

If you'd like to know how you'd respond it is important to experiment with pre-event work prior to a workout or less important race before implementing it as preparation for a more important competition. 

POST EVENT MASSAGE

Goal: to speed recovery from a race and decrease post exercise soreness.

Generally within 36 hours of a race or competition is when you should receive a post event massage — keep in mind that you've  just put your body under a tremendous amount of stress. Muscles have undergone micro-trauma and tearing and need a bit of TLC. 

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The massage should be on the lighter side but slightly deeper than pre-event work, with slow, controlled, flushing strokes. If the work is too deep it can damage muscles further and prolong how long it takes to recover from the event.

Incorporating a moderate amount of static stretching into the massage is also beneficial. If at all possible, hop into an ice bath or cold whirlpool after the massage and stretching. This combination of a flushing massage, assisted static stretching and cold therapy is a awesome formula for decreasing post-exercise soreness and substantially speeding up recovery from a race or event. I know a cold bath falls more into the cold pricklies rather than the warm fuzzies category, but it's beneficial none the less. 

GENERAL MASSAGE FOR RUNNERS

Goal: To loosen tight muscles, release trigger points, increase range of motion and reduce the risk of injury.

Runners tend to require and respond best to deeper work when receiving a general massage. A very specific massage is required, going deep enough to be effective but not so deep that it causes you to tense up and fight the work (if you find yourself clenching your muscles, its too deep). Some soreness for 24 to 36 hours after the massage is generally fine, but anything longer and the massage may have been too deep for you. 

INJURY SPECIFIC MASSAGE

Goal: To facilitate healing of an injured muscle, tendon or ligament.

Massage on an injured muscle, tendon or ligament can be extremely effective if applied appropriately. It is always important to work in conjunction with a doctor or physiotherapist so you've had a proper diagnosis and the massage is part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Every injury is different, and the massage protocol will vary depending on the type and extent of the injury, but here are a few useful guidelines. For now I'm going to focus on muscle strains, but remember, there are loads of other injuries you can get after running your buns off.

When working on a strained muscle, sessions should be no more than twice a week. The muscle needs time to recover between sessions. In the beginning stages of the injury, work will be be deep and  focused around the injured area but work on the injury itself will be limited to light flushing strokes. Light and very gentle static stretching will be incorporated as well. As the injury starts to heal, applying deeper and deeper pressure with cross fiber friction to the actual site of the injury will help the muscle realign. Gradually the intensity will increase to the static stretch and eventually incorporate resistive stretching (structural integration) towards the end of the rehabilitation process.

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COMMON INJURIES FOR RUNNERS

Loads of injures can and will pop up, but here's a few of the most common and ways you can help sort them out. 

ILIOTIBIAL BAND (ITB SYNDROMME)

It's generally characterized by pain at the outside of the knee. A tight ITB can irritate the bursa at the lateral femoral condyle as well as the bone itself.

Treatment should include working all three of the gluteal muscles, the ITB itself but most importantly the tensor fasciae lata (TFL) this muscle LITERALLY means "tight lateral fascia" and your ITB is LITERALLY tight lateral fascia.  

The ITB usually requires very deep work because of how dense it is. Positioning can play a crucial role in effective ITB. Tightness in the iliopsoas and the vastus lateralis should be checked as well. When a client has an ITB injury or chronic ITB tightness, there is almost always an associated tightness and/or weakness in the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.

So...rather that rolling out your ITB over and over and over and over again, roll the above muscles first, once they loosen, the ITB will usually follow.

Also get those adductors strengthened! I wont get into it in this blog (it's already pretty long winded, soz). Try doing 3 sets of 15 really concentrating on slow movements. 

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ACHILLES TENDONOPATHY 

When treating an achilles tendon problem, a massage therapist will start with deep massage techniques of the Gastrocnemius and Soleus (some of the calf muscles). Since these muscles connect to the Achilles and can tug on the tendon when tight, it only makes sense to go to town on these poor overworked muscles. After a good ol' throttling checking through the entire posterior chain of the legs for tightness, including the hamstrings, glutes and the intrinsic foot muscles on the plantar fascia aspect of the foot is a must.

To help facilitate this, grab a golf ball and roll it along the bottom of your feet(s) while you're sitting down. When you release these muscles a lot of the tension from the calf muscles will melt away as well.

RUNNER'S KNEE

This is characterised by pain behind or around the kneecap. As the name implies, it is very common to runners, but not exclusive to runners. The underlying causes are often muscular imbalances the four quad muscles; the vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, rectus femoris are tight while the vastus medialis obliques (VMO) are weak. The tight muscles should be loosened with massage and stretching, while the VMO needs to be strengthened. 

 VMO strengthening start position. 

VMO strengthening start position. 

  VMO strengthening – finish position: Focus on locking out the knee.

VMO strengthening – finish position: Focus on locking out the knee.

WHEN SHOULD YOU BE GETTING A MASSAGE?

While training, listen to your body. If you feel like you need one? Get one. When it starts getting close to race time try and stick to 3-6 days pre event. As I said above, people respond differently to massage and you don't want to find out a few days out that you still haven't fully recovered from that deep tissue massage you had with Hardcore Helga a day before the big event. 

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Need a massage or have a question, don't worry, I got this.

Have an injury and unsure if you should ice or apply heat to that bad boy? 

Are you Winter ready? Pt 2

 The Remarkables - or as my mother calls them, The Incredibles. 

The Remarkables - or as my mother calls them, The Incredibles. 

Winter really came in full force this week, brr. I'm officially in love with my electric blanket. #snugglebuddiesfolyfe
 

In the part 1 of this post we covered exercises that will help tune you out for getting back on your board/planks. In part 2 we're going to take the time to look over some stretches so you can stay strapped in rather than give up and head to the lodge for a pint, or you can still head to the lodge for a pint, no judgment. 

As shown in the diagram below, the lower leg is made up of some pretty massive muscles. The main players are the Gastrocnemius and underneath that, the Soleus, named because it looks like a fish...the sole more specifically...anyway...these two muscles are mostly responsible for dorsiflexion (pointing your toes up the way) and plantar flexion (pointing your toes down the way).

Whether you're in board boots or ski boots, your foot is going to be in dorsiflexion, which can lead to cramps in your lower leg. Have you ever been woken up by crazy painful cramps in your leg in the dead of the night? Chances are, you were sleeping on your back, and the sheets/blankets caused your feet to go into dorsiflexion for a prolonged period, and that triggered a muscles spasm which is cramps in your leg. By the by, to stop them point your toes to the ground in plantar flexion. I've seen this happen while people are getting massaged as well when they are laying face down on the table, again take your foot out of dorsiflexion and into plantar flexion to ease off the cramping and spasms. You're welcome.

I digress...when you're in your boots your foot is stuck in dorsiflexion, plus you're going off your heel and toe edge which is actively lengthening and shortening your gastroc and soleus (and a number of other lower leg muscles). After a few turns you may notice those muscles beginning to fatigue or even get quite sore. Then the cramps may set in. 

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You could either A) take your foot out of your boot every time this happens and do the above dorsi and plantar flexion motions to get the cramp to let off or B) do the strengthening exercises outlined in part 1 and also these stretches before and after your day on the mountain. 

Standing Calf Stretch

 image via prehab exercises 

image via prehab exercises 

You'll want to feel this stretch happening in the belly (middle) of the muscle, if you feel it pulling at the joints, back off. Hold this until you feel it release, then move on to the next foot. You can repeat this up to 4 times on each foot. 

Achilles Tendon Stretch / Heel Stretch 

 image via Health Wise

image via Health Wise

Stand facing a wall with your hands at eye level. Put the leg you want to stretch about a step behind your other leg. Keeping your back heel on he floor,bend your front knee until you feel the stretch in your back leg in the achilles, hold until you feel the release, then switch legs. This can also be repeated up to 4 times. 

Those are the two main stretches for lower leg pain and cramps that will keep those pesky aches away, but there are a few other stretches that will benefit you. These are head to toe stretches that should be done after you're finished for the day. A good rule of thumb is to stick to static stretches after the activity and do active (movements that mimic your sport) before the activity. 

The below button is a link to a great site that will walk you through all the stretches you'll need for your daily riding regime. 

Missed part one of the blog? Click the button below to give it a read.