Dear Athletes, Are You Keeping Your Ankles Mobile and Healthy?
People active in sports have many concerns. They worry about their workout programs and their nutrition. But, people working out miss worrying about ankle mobility.
Most people worry about ankle mobility too late when it’s time to purchase an ankle support sleeve. If you want to last in sports and work out for years, start thinking about ankle mobility now.
It’s a small-time investment for long-term health benefits.
Ankle mobility is the combination of strength and flexibility of the ankle joints. When you have proper ankle mobility, your body can take more stress and perform better.
When you avoid developing ankle mobility, you are setting your body for future injuries. With more exercise, your body has to take on more stress. Joints take more damage until you become incapable of prolonged exercise.
Most people don’t work on their ankle mobility. They run, lift weights, and do contact sports without worrying about their ankles.
But, once the injury happens, it can be life-altering. Avoid that injury by increasing your ankle mobility.
1. Ankle Dorsiflexion
Even if you didn’t take care of your ankle mobility, don’t stress. You can start working on ankle mobility today and still protect your body for years to come. The first thing you want to check is your ankle dorsiflexion.
Dorsiflexion refers to the ability of the wrist and ankle joint to bend. Of course, the more you can move your hand and foot, the better. If you notice that you can’t move your foot, that means you have low ankle mobility.
Depending on your dorsiflexion, you should make adjustments to your workout plan.
2. Ankle Mobility and Working Out
If you can’t move your ankles, make changes to your workout plans. Now, there are a bunch of things you may call a workout. But, for an easier understanding of the matter, you can try to do the following.
Add more stretches, and use the exercises in the sections below. Also, if you are lifting weights, perform the lifts with less load.
With less load, your ankles take less stress. Reduce the strain until you build ankle mobility. The same goes if you are in contact sports. Try to avoid sparring or kicking for some time.
Make it a goal to build healthy ankle mobility.
Healthy Ankle Mobility
Healthy ankle mobility means that you have proper ankle dorsiflexion. Or, to make it easier to understand, you want your ankles to:
- Be flexible
- Take more pressure
- Allow more movement
- Have more resistance
Now, this seems like an obvious thing. The problem is that a lot of people in sports never spend time improving ankle health.
Increasing dorsiflexion doesn’t take too much time. It takes a bit of effort.
If you don’t stretch, start right now. Stretching exercise should be a part of any exercise routine. If you got in the gym recently, remember to stretch.
You can try any stretching exercise that involves the whole body. When you stretch, you help the body to recover from strain.
Stretch daily. Even if you can’t complete a whole routine, stretch your feet, neck, arms, and knees. Even that may suffice at the start when you want to improve ankle mobility.
Consistency is the key. Keep stretching, and the results will come.
The other thing you should take into account is your lifestyle. It’s best when you have a proper work-life balance. That means that you go to work and spend a necessary amount of time working out.
The problem is that living a sedentary lifestyle decreases ankle flexibility. However, extreme workouts without rest also reduce ankle flexibility.
You want to find the sweet spot where you have an appropriate amount of workouts. But, you don’t want to overwork your body.
When you work out without rest, you destroy your body. So, find the right balance and stretch.
3. Choice of Footwear
Finally, you want to choose better footwear. Sneakers are not the best choice for your feet. You don’t want to wear anything with high heels, at least not on the regular. Switch to ergonomic footwear instead.
While it may not be the best choice when it comes to style, it helps your ankles. Other than that, you want to do regular exercises for ankle mobility.
Exercise for Ankle Mobility
When you venture online to find the solution for ankle mobility problems, there are a lot of exercises. However, you want to separate all those exercises into two categories. The first category is stretching exercises, while the second category is actual ankle exercises.
Now, stretches include the elementary foot exercises. You can read about the ankle mobility exercises below.
1. Half-Kneeling Active Stretch
This exercise may prove hard for first-timers. But, like anything else, it gets easier over time. To perform this exercise:
- Start in a half-kneeling position, with the heel and toes of your front foot on the floor and knee positioned directly over the ankle.
- Keeping the front heel on the floor, let the front knee track over the front middle toe.
- Continue shifting knee forward until you feel a stretch at the back of your ankle. From this position, press hard, contracting the muscles in your lower leg.
- Hold for 10 seconds.
- Then, keeping your front heel on the floor, slowly pull the foot away
- Hold this stretch for 10 seconds before relaxing again.
- That’s 1 rep
- Repeat for 3 total reps per side
2. Kettlebell Calf Smash
Try to do this exercise with a smaller kettlebell. Take it easy. To perform this exercise:
- Sit with legs extended in front of you and a kettlebell positioned handle-up next to one leg
- Lift your leg and rest your calf on the kettlebell handle above your Achilles tendon
- Think about pressing your calf down into the handle to increase the pressure
- Rock the muscle from side to side and up and down, massaging it on the handle
- After a few rocks in every direction, shift the kettlebell another 2 inches up your calf and repeat.
- Work your way up to your entire calf before repeating on the other leg.
3. Active Heel-Sitting Stretch
This exercise may feel a bit weird at first. But, it’s beneficial for you. To perform this exercise:
- Start in a tall kneeling position, with tops of feet kissing the floor
- Sit your bum back until your cheeks are sitting on your heels.
- Think about pressing the tops of your feet into the floor
- Hold for 10 seconds, then relax.
- While squeezing your calf muscles as hard as you can, pretend to peel the tops of your feet off the floor
- Hold for 10 seconds, then relax.
- That’s 1 rep. Repeat for 3 total reps.
There you have it, that’s the easiest way to increase ankle mobility. It’s going to take work, but it’s worth the effort.
With a bit more effort, you can do more and perform better. Reach a new level of workout.
Salman Zafar is an ecopreneur, consultant, advisor, speaker and journalist with expertise in waste management, waste-to-energy, renewable energy, environment protection, conservation and sustainable development. His geographical areas of focus include Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe. Salman is the Founder of EcoMENA, a popular voluntary organization based in Qatar. He is also the Founder and CEO of BioEnergy Consult, a reputed consulting firm active in biomass, waste-to-energy and waste management segments.
Salman is a professional environmental writer with more than 350 popular articles to his credit. He is proactively engaged in creating mass environmental awareness in different parts of the world.
Salman Zafar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
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