FIRST EXERCISE OF 2017 IS THE CALF STRETCH!
You thought I’d start at the foot didn’t you? Well the calf muscles ARE part of the feet – many of the calf muscles are what is called EXTRINSIC muscles which means one end of them are in the foot, and the other end on the leg. So starting here is like getting a two-for-one deal!
But here’s why I really started at the Calf Stretch. This seemingly simple little movement is going to revolutionize your life. The Fidel Calfstretch of exercises, if you will. It’s the one exercise that you need to do most often. So calf stretch till the cows come home! (get it?)
You see, when you sit (which most of us do far, far too often for far, far too long), the muscles that cross the ankle and knee are shortened. After a time, they STAY shortened, so when you stand up, the muscles are forced to stretch for them to be long enough for you to stand up. What’s wrong with that? Well, a stretching muscle forces the blood OUT and therefore the circulation suffers (of both blood and lymph, or waste). Do you know anyone who has circulatory problems in the lower legs? How about muscle cramps?
Also, sitting places no loads on the feet (they are not supporting your weight) so the foot muscles (some of which are also calf muscles remember!) are also weakened and atrophy over time.
- improve the dorsiflexion in your ankles, allowing you to bring more musculature to your walk (increase your metabolism – more parts moving!)
- bring more circulation to the muscles of the lower leg
- load the feet, stretching the plantar fascia (good for plantar fasciitis)
- undo some of the detriments of sitting
HOW: Stand up and face a half dome on the floor. A rolled towel works just as well! Place the ball of one foot up on the top of the dome and drop the heel to the floor. Step forward with the other foot but not so far forward that you lose your balance or have to lean forward at the hips. Hold for one minute minimum and then repeat for the other foot.
ADVANCED: Do the same stretch, but make both your feet point straight forward.
WHEN: As often as you can. When you take phone calls, when you are just thinking, when you are reading the paper, checking your Facebook or email, when you are brushing your teeth or peeling carrots for dinner, waiting for the kettle or toaster. Before bed, first thing in the morning. All day through.
HOW OFTEN: Hold each stretch for one minute and repeat as often as possible! It’s easy. Just DO IT!