Before beginning any exercise regimen, warming up is essential. If muscles are properly warmed up, the strain on muscles and tendons is reduced, as is the likelihood for injury.
Warm-up exercises can be as easy as three sets of eight heel raises and mini-squats. This will allow your muscles to ease into exercise. Following exercise, spend a dedicated amount of time stretching the muscles that were exercised the most. Stretching should always be done when muscles and tendons are warm to decrease the vulnerability for injury.
Some effective stretching exercises for the foot and ankle following exercise include:
- The runner's stretch. Face a wall from three feet away, with feet flat on the floor and knees locked. Lean into the wall, keeping heels on the floor and hold for 30 seconds as the calf muscle stretches, then relax. Do not bounce. Repeat three times. You can also repeat this with the back knee bent as well to target calf muscles lower in your leg.
- The hamstring stretch. In a seated position, put your foot flat on the floor with your ankle relaxed and knee slightly bent. Tilt your pelvis forward, arching your lower back somewhat. Lean forward with your chest, maintaining the position of your lower back and pelvis. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat 3 times.
Excessive tightness of the calf and hamstring muscles can contribute to foot and knee problems. A key point of injury is the Achilles tendon, which attaches the calf muscles to the back of the heel. When the calf muscles tighten up, they limit the movement of the ankle joint. Maintaining healthy flexibility of your lower leg muscles is very useful in the prevention of many foot problems.
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