I know/believe to the core of my being that my latest ankle oops ouch would have been significantly worse had I not worked on them so much in the recent months. The previous year had seen me tearing up both ankles, individually that is and at 6 month intervals and totally unrelated, kind of like the Lakers’ bench around the same time. (You would need to be a pretty hardcore fan to get that one)
I became obsessed with my ankles, determined not to let them bring me down in the future. To that end, I researched and played around with lots of techniques and tools and exercises. I will humbly share with you my findings.
The “Easy” Stuff
When I was rehabbing the first injury, I was very aware of the absurd rate of re-injury when it comes to ankles; we’re talking in the neighborhood of 35 percent. That’s right more than 1/3 of the people who sprain or significantly damage their ankles will reinjure that same ankle before it heals. The typical recovery time is around 6 weeks, which was way more than I could handle, so I was aggressively and yet very carefully working that foot, which meant lots of ice, elevation and compression.
I would be putting weight on it as soon and often as possible and would start doing an exercise that I continue to do to this day. If there is one thing you take away from this post or this blog/website it is this very simple practice.
While brushing your teeth in the morning, stand on one foot and balance while you brush your teeth. If you go for a minute on each foot, you will have brushed your teeth thoroughly and strengthened a lot of those little muscles in your foot that get overly protected by “proper” footwear. A minute is a lot longer than you might think so start of by going for 30 seconds and switching feet. Still too hard, make it 15 seconds. When I was rehabbing, it was only 5 seconds with a little weight being shared by my “good” foot.
Another “easy” but very effective foot strengthening exercise; drop a wash cloth on the bathroom floor, pick it up with your foot and pass it to your hand, drop it bag on the floor grab it with your opposite food and pass it to your hand. Do this several times on each side, when that becomes easy combine it with the “toothbrush balance” meaning pick up the towel with one foot while balancing on the other for around 30 seconds and then do the opposite side.
Pretty much the same as above exercise, except you sit on the bathtub or toilet seat and scrunch the towel with your toes.
The simple act of going barefoot will connect you to your surroundings and teach your feet to “see” the world around it. If you haven’t done this much or lately, it is surprising and amazing to rediscover something so obvious, something we would naturally do as kids before being scolded and told to “put your shoes on”
After reading/listening to the book “Born to Run” I have become a convert to barefoot running. I am a walking success story. My feet have gotten flatter and flatter as I my years have passed. I had always had “flat feet” no arches to speak of, that is until I started running “barefoot”(I opt for the Vibram 5 fingers). My arches falling was a foregone conclusion, except it wasn’t; weeks after pounding the pavement and trails without the aid of the modern running shoe, I started seeing my feet develop actual arches. It really blew my mind.
Jump rope for a few minutes; really jump rope for 3 minutes without stopping. It is a lot harder than you’d think and is so cheap and convenient that you begin to understand and acknowledge how much hype and marketing surround our “fitness” culture. If you want to give your forearms an intense burn put down the store bought jump rope with handles and ball bearings and give a simple rope a twirl.
On one foot preferably a bare foot, lower and rise on a step. It’s just like the various toe-raise machines in the gym except you’ll “just” be using your body weight and being going much slower all the way through the full range of motion and then again. Do 15 on each foot. Don’t get me wrong, way back when I used to use weights and machines I would throw tons of weight on and get a great burn in my calves. I’ll still grab the sandbag(s) to increase the workload. Your calf muscles need that kind of hurt/love. Remember they are used to carrying you around all day, every day.
I purchased my first resistance bands to rehab my ankle and my shoulder. I had just packed them away, literally a day or so before my accident. I dug them out and remembered how fun and easy they were to play with, something easy to do while watching TV.
But that will be another post, another day.