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?

Running Is NOT Only About The Legs

Running is not just a leg movement, it’s a whole body movement and a skill to develop and improve continuously.

Take for example the simple movement of arms and legs. Here are a couple of exercises for you to test the connection between your upper and lower body.

Exercise 1

Walk as you normally would over a 50-100m distance if you can.

Now walk exaggerating the movement of your arms and shoulders only, again 50-100m. Everything else moves normally. What are your legs and hips doing? How do you feel? Are you in control of your movement?

Now walk exaggerating the movement of your legs and hips only. What are your arms and shoulders doing? How do you feel? Are you in total control of your body?

Now walk exaggerating the movement of your arms shoulders as well as your legs and hips. Walk faster, then slower, then faster and notice how your feet are moving and are positioned with each step, notice the level of control you may or may not have and your overall coordination.

Now hold your arms tied to your body and your hands to your thighs. As you walk move your shoulder and whole arm forward. But remember the arms and hands are tied to the legs, so the whole side of the body moves forward, each side at a time

How do you feel? Do you feel your body is moving efficiently? I’m not looking for a specific answer, although you can guess that should happen. I’m interested in your becoming aware of what’s happening to and with your body.

 

Exercise 2

Here’s another example: walk with your arms behind your back.

You will probably notice that your shoulders still want, and struggle to move your arms but the arms aren’t going anywhere. It’s a struggle, you have to put in more energy than usual. If you continue walking like this at your normal walking speed you’d feel tired, more than you’d normally feel.

Notice how much effort the legs have to make to move you forward, how your core muscles do extra work trying, in vain, to move your arms.

Now release your hands and arms and walk normal. How easy is that. It’s just right, natural.

 

Do the 2 exercises above while running as well, you will see a massive difference between when using your arms and shoulders and when you don’t. Replace “walk” with “run” in the instructions.

 

Your body moves the way it moves because it was designed to move like this, this is the most efficient way to move, with the whole body as Jack Heggie says in his book Running With The Whole Body.

Yet many runners hold their arms tight to the sides. You don’t have to strain your arms and shoulders but they do have to move in co-ordination with your legs and hips.

When you move in co-ordination there is a spiralling motion in your spine. Certain muscles contract  storing energy, while opposite muscles stretch and energy is released. You run faster, easier, and, most importantly, you reduce the risk of injuries because your body will begin to move like a well oiled machine, rather than pushing, pulling, struggling and straining.

However that doesn’t mean you have to move your upper body excessively. It’s enough to release tension in your shoulders and allow the arms to move like pendulums back and forth from your shoulders, as if you are hitting someone behind you.

Keep your body moving the correct way, keep your joints as healthy and strong as you can and run for as long as you want.

Explore and develop an effortless and injury-free running style in our 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. Want to know more? Just contact us here.

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 Programmes With Jorgen Welsink

As runners, if we don’t have a coach, we need to know how to train ourselves to reach the goals we have set without burning out and injuring the body.

Jorgen Welsink studied Hollistic Health Coaching / Nutrition at The Institute For Integrative Nutrition and Orthomolecular (Top)Sport Coach & Personal Health Coach at LekkerPuurLeven.

As a running coach Jorgen explains how running training programmes for marathons should be planned. Get a pen and paper because there are a lot of important points to remember and slowly introduce into your training.

We also talk about different types of running technique to reduce the risk of injuries. We talk about heel strike running and natural running technique.

Jorgen also gives us gives us his advice on how to choose your running shoes for marathon training and when. Yes, there is an ideal time of the day to buy your running shoes.

In terms of recovery during training and after your marathon Jorgen shares with us his advice on nutrition, sleep and training for recovery.

In terms of nutrition we talked about how running gels work, carbohydrate loading and how to build a fat burning instead of a sugar burning body.

Links mentioned in the video:

www.iherb.com

Celtic salt

Smoothie with pea protein

 

Make your own running gels

Pineapple-orange chia energy gel
Orange-Pineapple Chia Gel Nutrition DataIngredients:

1 oz chia seeds
1 medium seedless orange
8 oz pineapple
¾ cup brown rice syrup
½ oz dry fruit pectin
1 serving electrolyte mix (above)
Mix the chia seeds with ⅜ cup of water. Stir until the chia gels thoroughly, then set aside.

Peel the orange, removing as much of the pith as possible. Combine the orange and the pineapple, including the juice, in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.

Combine ½ cup of the fruit mash with the hydrated chia. It’s normal to have extra fruit mash (I had ¾ cup left over). You can freeze it until you need to make another batch of gel.

Stir in the brown rice syrup, then slowly add the pectin. Finally, stir in the electrolyte mix.

Put the mixture in a small saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over low to medium heat, stirring constantly. Let the mixture boil for 1 minute, then remove it from the heat and pour it directly into a sterilized ½ pint mason jar for storage.

 

 

Running Technique – Elements Of Effortless Running – Lower Body

Any books you read on running technique which has the potential to reduce the risk of injuries have a few common elements. Each technique or style of running (i.e. Chi Running, Pose Method, Natural Running) has its own particular elements that sets it aside from the others, however they all state that to run with less effort and fewer injuries a runner should:

 

1. Land with the foot underneath the body 

That means DO NOT land ahead of your body because you overstride, break your momentum and increase impact. When you overstride you also have to power up by re-engaging the back muscle chains to start a new stride. More effort, more muscle tension, more impact, higher risk of running injuries.

If you can see your feet when you run (by looking down with your eyes and head, not by bending your whole body) it’s a sign you are probably overstriding, landing heavily in front of your body.

Bouncing up and down too much can be another sign. Usually, if you land under your General Centre of Mass you won’t bounce, you will move smoothly, almost like gliding.

This will also help reduce the rotational forces in the joints which lead to overuse injuries in the ankles, knees, hips, spine.

 

2. Lean the body from the ankles

This is an up-right, slightly forward leaning from the ankles, correctly aligned posture. Let gravity do the work instead of using your muscle strength.

 

3. Strike the ground with a midfoot strike

Another common element is the midfoot strike. If you land under your general centre of mass and use gravity to move forward there is no way you will do a heel strike. You will automatically go into a midfoot-forefoot strike.

That being said make sure you don’t run on your toes. You land on the balls of your feet and then allow the heels to touch the ground slightly. That’s it.

If, when you run, you listen closely you can tell whether you land with the ball of the foot. You will hear a “tap” and then you will feel the heel touching the ground. If you hear a “punding” that’s heavy landing and probably heel striking.

If you think about it pretty much all sports require a midfoot or forefoot body weight distribution: dancing, skiing, martial arts free sparring, even tennis. Look at the footwork in this tennis match, just the first 10 seconds.

 

4. Pick up the feet

Your feet are like pendulums. A long pendulum will move slower, a shorter one will move faster. So stop shuffling your legs, dragging them behind you, instead pick them up and bend your knee. 

5. Aim for optimum cadence 

Running cadence is measured by the number of strides per minute that each leg takes. The optimum running cadence is considered to be 85 to 90 strides per minute. 

If you do all of the above then you can maintain the optimum cadence.

However you have to build up gradually to this cadence if it’s not your normal. Then you keep that cadence all the time and use the lean and picking up your feet to move faster. In Chi Running you also increase the strides to increase speed. But you move faster because you lean more and relax your legs more not because you are using muscle power. You should not put effort to increase your strides, it will happen as you lean more. But first master the lean.

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.

Running Effortlessly Using Gravity

When it comes to running lighter and with less effort one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt from my coach is to use gravity – free energy. And that’s one of the lessons Pose Method of running teaches as well.

In this video I explain and also show you how to use gravity, but to have it in writing the idea is that:

To avoid pushing off, which created pressure on the body and joints, you want to learn forward from the ANKLES

Avoid bending from the hips; body has to learn as a whole, as a plank, from the ankles; it’s a FREE FALL feeling (i.e. falling on your face)

Keep the feet under the body; if your foot goes ahead of the body you will stop your free fall and will experience a lot of pressure on the joints, especially knees

This article and video links to the previous article and video on How runners damage their knees.

If you wish to know more about our dedicated Running Technique Workshops and Classes in London and Surrey email support@themtechnique.com or fill in the form below the video and we will reply within 2 working days.

 

If you wish to know more about our dedicated Running Technique Workshops and Classes in London and Surrey email support@themtechnique.com or fill in the form below the video and we will reply within 2 working days.

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