My husband, Brent, has complained of low-back pain for as long as I have known him (we celebrated our 25th-anniversary last year!). In his mid-30s, it got so bad that his back went out after picking up a piece of paper off the floor. His doctor referred him to a physical therapist. They started with some low back and hip strengthening exercises and Brent saw a little improvement. But as his back pain subsided a bit, it became clear that the origin was from a weak knee. Cue knee strengthening exercises. But then, guess what? That didn’t quite take care of it either.
After months of physical therapy and many hours of “homework,” Brent was feeling frustrated that the back pain persisted. As he and the therapist continued their detective work, it became apparent that the weakness didn’t start in the back or the knee. The original culprit was actually a weak ankle. Everything else was just compensating for it.
That knowledge was the magic bullet. Now in his early 50s, Brent is still pretty pain-free in his low back. If it does start acting up, he knows he’s been negligent in his at-home ankle exercises. He doesn’t even need to see the physical therapist anymore.
Our feet and ankles are our base; the foundation on which our upright body rests. If they are not supple and strong, there will be consequences felt throughout our bodies. In the Pilates in Holland studio, we start each class by giving our feet some love by rolling them out on a racquetball and maybe even giving them a hand massage or stretch. This loosens the tissue to give you a bigger footprint (and a larger, more stable base). This is so important before asking your feet to support you through lots of energetic movement!
We often end classes with ankle rotations and in-between work to strengthen foot and ankle muscles through a variety of exercises. Below you’ll find a few that we recommend you do several times a week, not just on Pilates days! For runners and walkers alike, stronger muscles around your ankles mean more power, agility, and mobility out on the road. Healthy feet and ankles can improve your stride, prevent sprains, and lead to less pain and injury up the entire chain.
So this spring as you’re running and walking routines ramp back up, don’t forget to take care of your feet and ankles. You may be tempted to think that walking or running is enough. It isn’t! Make sure to show these foundations of movement the respect they deserve.