Exercises To Strengthen Your Ankles

Exercises-To-Strengthen-Your-Ankles

As runners, especially trail runners, we must ensure our body is well prepared to negotiate with the wavy terrain, whether dry, muddy, wet or slippery.

Twisted ankles are very common and can put you off training. Indeed if you do your mileage off road your ankles – joints, muscles, tendons – will adapt and get stronger eventually. But what if you twist or sprain your ankle before they get strong enough?

I have to say I very seldom twist my ankles and I don’t remember ever spraining my ankles. The odd twist happens in obstacle course races where I run over tractor tires prints on dry ground or running through rivers over big, slippery rocks. And even then I recover fast.

Thus today I’d like to share with you how we, at The Merisoiu Technique Institute, train and condition our bodies, specifically ankles in this case, to be prepared for the unexpected on the trails.
 
1. Ride the terrain

Too often I see runners forcing themselves “into” the terrain instead of allowing the terrain to take them where it wants and then making small adjustments to keep moving in the desired direction.

Stop fighting the terrain, move with it, flow with it rather than going against it.

2. Strengthen your ankles 

The topic of this article. There are countless methods and exercises that help you to strengthen your ankles. Right now I will share with you a few simple ankle strengthening exercises which you can do not only as part of your scheduled training but anytime you wait in line, for a bus or brush your teeth.

a. Balance on one leg. That’s it, just stand on one leg. Please be aware of your surroundings so that if you lose your balance you don’t fall and injure yourself, have enough free space around you.

b. Balance with variations – The Clock. This means something like our very well known exercise The Clock in the video below. It’s excellent for ankle strength but also for strengthening stability muscles in the knees and hips and stabilising the hip joint, when done correctly. Here is a video with coaching tips.

Again please be aware of your surroundings so that if you lose your balance you don’t fall and injure yourself, have enough free space around you.

 

c. Balance with variations – 360 Degrees. Another slow movement balance exercise is the 350 Degrees. Again this will also strengthen stability muscles within other joints as well as the ankles.

d.  Walk on tip toes. Classic but effective.

e. Walk barefoot on uneven terrain.

You should have guessed this was coming! Walking barefoot will activate dormant muscles in your feet and ankles which, in regular shoes, are so well supported they don’t do much work so they weaken. Take your shoes and socks off, go out in the garden, walk around and balance observing how your foot and ankles muscles move and twitch, they’re working out.

Any exercise you choose do them regularly to get results. You don’t need to spend hours doing this. It’s most effective when you do a little everyday over a long period of time. Balancing while brushing their teeth seems to be my clients’ favourite, just take care not to fall and injure yourself.

The Limping To Leaping 4 weeks is a course for runners who want to run with less effort and fewer injuries, it introduces you to the running mechanics of natural running technique. If you wish more information email alexandra@alexandramerisoiu.com or fill in this form and I will reply within 2 business days.

By they way, have you checked out Dracula’s Retreat?

Solving The Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to the back of your heel. Achilles tendonitis is an overuse injury causing pain and inflammation, usually felt as a dull or sharp pain along the back of the Achilles tendon, usually closer to the heel.

Possible causes of Achilles tendonitis

1. Weak calf muscles
2. Excessive pronation
3. Excessive stress being transmitted through the tendon
4. Excessive power to begin a new stride – push off

 

Solving the problem

Fist of all, allow the injury to heal. Take a break form running, give it time to heal. There are strengthening exercises you can do to speed up healing, such as Hakan Alfredson’s heel drop, which I used to do a few years ago, when I could barely walk from Achilles tendonitis, and found very useful. Also avoid aggressive stretching. The tendon is injured, it doesn’t need more aggression.

Second, once you are back and ready to resume running observe HOW you run. It might be that the cause of your injury is in your form. You might be placing excessive stress through the tendon with every single step. This is very common and, if the cause is in your form, it can be eliminated.

Here’s what to look for:

 

1. Landing under the body

The muscles on the front of your legs are considered braking muscles (tibialis anterior – shin; quadriceps – thighs). Muscles on the back of the legs (gastrocnemius and soleus – calf; hamstrings – thigh) are considered propulsive muscles that work with the Achilles tendon (Natural Running – Danny Abshire).

Most runners absorb too much impact from breaking when they land ahead of their body and use too much muscle power to keep moving forward. This “power run” style leads to high impact, long strides and push off which puts the propulsive muscles under great stress.

By landing under the body or the GCM (general centre of mass) and landing lightly on the midfoot/forefoot, then allowing the heel to touch the ground lightly (without putting weight on), you are using the muscles and soft tissues in your foot, ankle, legs and knees (which should be flexed) as shock absorbers to reduce the destructive impact.

This is the first thing to change in your running. All the following bullet points usually take care of themselves once your landing is straight under the body.

 

2. Midfoot/forefoot landing

Modern running shoes allow us to land as heavily as we wish. We can’t feel anything, but the impact is there, the damage is happening with symptoms showing up months later.

If you were to take your shoes off and run around a little you’d realise just how aggressive your run actually is. We do this sometimes on soft ground and clients are always shocked at how heavily they land. Without me saying anything their form slowly changes. Why? Because your body doesn’t like it so it will adapt. That doesn’t mean you have to give up regular running shoes, you can land with a midfoot/forefoot strike in any shoes.

Landing on your toes (high heels) or on your heels causes a lot of problems including damage to the Achilles tendon. What you are looking for is a light landing on the ball of the foot and then a light touch with the heel before going on to the next stride.

 

3. Flexed knees

Many runners land with a stiff leg and ankle, which means the muscles will not absorb the impact and so joints and tendons will suffer. Flex the knees and allow the ankles to bend and flex, don’t hold them stiff and don’t point your toes.

 

4. Pull, don’t push

When you begin a new stride try to pull the leg under your body rather than pushing your whole weight forward. It’s much easier to pull the leg than push the body. Makes sense? After this a slight lean from the ankles, with a straight, aligned body, will move you forward. It’s light and almost effortless. Here’s a video on how to pick up and pull your feet off the ground.

 

If you are a long distance, experienced runner you might find that getting these elements into your running form will slow you down and make you feel tired. You’ll probably run less than usual. But the question is: how bad do you want to solve your problem? Addressing the cause of your pain is the only way to permanently get rid of it. Any treatment will last for a while but repeating the same movements what lead to the injury in the first place will cause the injury to recur. Mileage can increase back to your normal, but if your injuries keep coming back you will probably stop running for good.

If you are interested in exploring and developing an effortless and injury-free running style you have a few options including a fast-track 4 weeks course 1-2-1. You will have videos and material after the course to help you continue to develop your running style. If you are interested leave a comment below or contact us here.

Pick Up Your Feet And Run Faster

Have you ever thought about what your feet and legs are doing when you run or even walk? Do you lift your feet off the ground, bending your legs at the knee or do you just drag them just above the ground, shuffling, one after the other?

If you have noticed your running form then you have already changed the way you run. If you haven’t now it’s the time to do so.

Watch the video below for a more detailed explanation, but in summary the reasons you should pick up your feet instead of dragging or shuffling:

Reason #1: You will run faster

Your legs are like pendulums. And like any pendulum, a long pendulum will move slower, a shorter one will move faster.

 

Reason #2: You will run more relaxed, lighter on your feet

If you pick your feet without lifting and leading with the knees you will not use the quads as much, thus you run more relaxed and with less effort. The work is done by your hamstrings and only at the start of the lift, after that your hamstrings should relax.

 

Reason #3: Reduce the risk of injuries

First of all if you drag your feet chances are you will trip or slip at some point. Pick up your feet and you reduce those chances, a lot.

Second if you drag your feet chances are you are landing in ahead of your body (instead of underneath), actively landing (driving your feet forward), heel striking and landing with a stiff leg or ankle. All this, in time, may lead to shin splints, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis and then knee pain and back pain. It’s a chain reaction in fact.

So stop shuffling your legs, dragging them behind you and pick them up and bend your knee.

Remember running is a skill of movement, and art. As with anything you want to create, it will be difficult and uncomfortable at the beginning but once you get the hang of it you won’t run anymore, you will glide.

Check out the video below with this particular technical element and also this article Running Technique – Elements Of Effortless Running – Lower Body:

Running After Knee Injury – Testimonial Client Experience

Mariepaule had a really bad knee injury. She did the therapies recommended and got the OK. Then she came to work with Alexandra.

Through consistent running technique and natural movement practice, coaching and practicing by herself, Mariepaule recovered nicely and managed a 2 day walk, 2nd day combined with running.

 

This is what we look at on the Running Technique Workshop. Of course, changing the way you move and use your body takes time, but on the workshop you will leave with a few concepts that, if used, can make a huge difference.

While same results cannot be guaranteed, with practice, natural running technique will help you run faster, further, with less effort and fewer injuries.

Book your spot for the next workshop in East London, Canada Water.

Running With Lower Back Pain – Testimonial Client Experience

Richard experienced sore back after running. We knew it was a non-specific lower back pain (i.e. not caused my disc problems, accidents etc) so we could work together.

Over the 12 months we’ve worked once a week to develop strength, flexibility and mobility through natural movement. We also corrected his running form to make it less destructive on his joints and body as a whole.

There were many many changes in his running form over the past 12 months which lead to NO MORE BACK PAIN!! during or after running.

But it’s not over. Next steps: fine tune technique, optimise performance and address other subtle imbalances, tension and restrictions in the body.

Well done Richard!

This is what we look at on the Running Technique Workshop. Of course, changing the way you move and use your body takes time, but on the workshop you will leave with a few concepts that, if used, can make a huge difference.

While same results cannot be guaranteed, with practice, natural running technique will help you run faster, further, with less effort and fewer injuries.

Book your spot for the next workshop in East London, Canada Water.

How Your Arms Make Your Running Heavy And Breathing Difficult

If you want to run lighter, breathe easier when you run and reduce the risk of injuries think about your arms. What you do with your arms, where they’re going, how they’re moving and everything in between.

I explain in the video and also show how your arm direction affects your running, making it heavy and it also affects your breathing.

When your arms cross your body midline the following happens:

  • your shoulder start to curl inwards
  • that leads to the chest closing up
  • which compresses the chest and rib cage
  • that leads to difficult breathing
  • your alignment is also off as the shoulders drop forward
  • your hips fall back
  • your general centre of mass in behind you
  • your lower back takes a lot of pressure
  • your lower back is sore

To avoid this chain reaction you arms should move forward, and your elbows lightly brushing your body.

Check out the March 2017 Running Technique Workshop in East London.

If you live in Surrey we have weekly classes dedicated to runners. Get in touch for more information

Dracula’s Retreat link as promised in the video click here.

How Runners Damage Their Knees

Are you a runner? Do you suffer from knee pain but there is no structural damage that you are aware of (i.e. meniscus, ligament damage etc)? Not yet at least!

Then you should consider looking at HOW you run, your running form, more than for how long and how fast you run.

In this video I explain the main mistake runners make from a technical point of view. That main mistake runners make that lead to damaged knees is OVER STRIDING. Yep. Shorten your stride and you will be using your body in a less destructive way, because when you over stride you:

1. Lock your knee

The moment you lock out your knee it cannot absorb the impact as is would when it is slightly bent. When it is slightly bent you are using the knees and muscles aroudn the knees, the stabilizor msucles as suspension to take on the pressure. When you lovk your knees all you do is put all that pressure and impact on the joint itself.

 

2. Break your fall

In the POSE Method of running Dr Romanov talks about using gravity to move the body forwards, leaning the whole body from the ankles (not bending from the hips). However, when you over stride all you do is break your fall. Add a locked knee to the equation and you have the recipe for knee injuries.

 

3. Push off 

When you over stride the only way to move on is to push off with the back leg. When you push off you stretch out the leg and you also get a reaction from the ground (for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction). The harder you push off the harder the reaction from the ground.

There are a few other reasons when you don’t want to over stride which I haven’t covered in this video but will in future videos.

Watch the video below and if you wish to enquire about our Running Workshop please fill in the form under the video and we will get in touch within 2 business days.

Enquire about Running Technique Workshops:

Run Lighter And Reduce Running Injuries – Running Workshops

Do you want to run lighter and reduce the risk of running related injuries?

Whether you are into parkruns, marathons, short distance running, trail running, road running, obstacle course races the way you run will impact your body instantly.

Shin splints, knee pain, lower back pain, shoulder and upper body pain they are all related to your running form, to how you use your body.

Thus join our running technique workshops in London and train like an athlete.

Watch the video to understand what you will do and learn on the day.

Also please share around. Looking to pass down this knowledge to as many runners as possible.

EARLY BIRD TICKETS are available for the January and February workshops.

 

Running Technique – Running And Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is very common and many cases are due to poor use of the body (i.e. poor alignment, posture, weak key muscles).

If you are running with lower back pain you should consider finding the source of your pain before you continue. While there are many reasons your lower back pain may hurt, such as weak core muscles or gluteal muscles, there can also be reasons related to your running technique, the mechanics side of running.

In the video I mention 3 aspects of the running technique that may contribute to your lower back pain.

1. THE HEAD

The head should not be tilts forwards or backwards. Instead is should be aligned with the shoulders, hips and front of ankles.

2. THE SHOULDERS

Shoulders should not go out of alignment with the ears and hips. Crossing the arms in front of your body will pull your shoulders forward, closing up your body, and causing your body to lose posture and good form.

3. THE HIP

a. The Bucket of Water

Imagine your hip joint like a bucket of water. In its strongest, stable and aligned position it is slightly tilted forward. However, the tendency is to tilt the hips too much forward (spilling water forward out of the bucket) or tilt backwards (spilling water backwards).

Keep the hip join in a position where you don’t spill water, neither forward, or backwards.

b. Heel strike

Heel striking when running is the perfect way to tilt the hips forward and throw them out of alignment. This put a lot of pressure on your lower back and makes the whole chain become unstable and weak.

 

Watch the video below and if you wish to attend our dedicated running workshops email support@themtechnique.com

Factors Leading To Running Injuries – Flexibility And Mobility

When you run your muscles contact and expand. Hundreds of times, maybe even thousands for long distance runners.  Tight muscles and joints can lead to all sorts of injuries including knee pain, lower back pain, plantar fasciitis, muscle cramps.

 

Working on your flexibility and mobility as a runner means you will:

– run faster

– run for longer

– recover faster

– reduce the risk of injuries – including muscle cramps, pulled muscles, lower back pain, plantar fasciitis

– improve blood circulation

 

Furthermore the focus of you stretch and mobility exercises should be not only on lower body but also hips, AND upper body. Why? Because firstly running in a full body movement, second notice how your body moves in diagonal – left leg with right arm, right leg with left arm – there is a rotation in the body every time you step. Third, upper body muscles have to contract and expand just like the lower body, otherwise that rotation wouldn’t take place, it would be very uncomfortable, tight, and at risk on injury.

 

Are 10 min of stretching at the beginning and end of your run enough?

Not really. I mean come on, do you think that after running 5 km 10 min of quick stretches will release the muscles and joints? If you help every stretch for 10-15 sec, and you stretched your whole body, 10 min wouldn’t be enough.

Instead consider:

– having 2 shorter running sessions per week that begin with 10 min stretches and end with a 30 min stretch – full body

– signing up for a weekly yoga and/or pilates class

– natural movement fitness (the kind that we do here at The Merisoiu Technique Institute)

 

Remember, the whole body needs to be flexible, mobile and strong for a runner to be complete.


For coaching or advice email support@themtechnique.com or book a consultation

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