Should you use ice or heat?
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.
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
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
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.