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RolyPolyPony
Sep. 2, 2009, 07:47 AM
So, in my ripe old age, I've discovered that my ankles are not as flexible as they used to be. I'm a rerider after many years off, and my instructor commented last night that my ankles seem very stiff, which is contributing to my issues with getting my heels down and getting my weight into my heels. (and may be why I had that weird ankle cramp at last week's lesson!)

Can anyone recommend any unmounted exercises to improve my ankle flexibility?

Thanks!

JB
Sep. 2, 2009, 08:06 AM
Is it your ankle specifically, or is it a lack of stretch in your calf? Do you have a previous injury?

Standing with your toes on a stair/step and allowing your weight to sink to your lowering heels is a good way to stretch the calf muscles. But generally making circles with your foot is a way to increase range of motion in the ankle.

Make sure you aren't curling your toes - that stiffens up an ankle because it's done by contracting some portion of the calf ;)

RolyPolyPony
Sep. 2, 2009, 10:09 AM
Is it your ankle specifically, or is it a lack of stretch in your calf? Do you have a previous injury?

Standing with your toes on a stair/step and allowing your weight to sink to your lowering heels is a good way to stretch the calf muscles. But generally making circles with your foot is a way to increase range of motion in the ankle.

Make sure you aren't curling your toes - that stiffens up an ankle because it's done by contracting some portion of the calf ;)

I'm pretty sure it's my ankles not my calves, and nope, no previous injuries! I have always struggled w/ my heels, even when I was young, it's just much worse now :)

I'll start circling! :) And thanks for the top tip - I am 99% sure that I DO curl my toes when riding, because I know I do it in general - I'm doing it right now! Must stop!!

Wizard of Oz's
Sep. 2, 2009, 10:16 AM
I had a cousin who always walked on her tippy toes when she was a baby, and then couldn't walk regularly when she tried because her achilles tendon was short. They had her use like an elastic band and put in on the ball of her foot while sitting in a chair, and after a little while her tendon stretched and she could walk regularly. Recently, I told this story to a 12 year old girl at my barn that I babysit (who has always had a problem getting her heels down) and we found just a random stretchy strap and tried it on her. It worked! Maybe you could try that? We didn't kill her tendon, just stretched it enough that she could feel it but didn't hurt.:)

JB
Sep. 2, 2009, 10:16 AM
Yeah, curled toes really stiffen up the entire lower leg, ankle included ;)

Katie81
Sep. 2, 2009, 10:39 AM
I agree with all the exercises mentioned above. I was also having a similar problem and decided to invest in a very nice pair of paddock boots. Having a better pair of footwear ended up giving my foot much more support. May be something to consider....

Mor4ward
Sep. 2, 2009, 11:42 AM
I started life with a tight hamstring and short Achilles tendon.
A great exercise is to stand on the bottom step of a flight of stairs - only on the balls of your feet. Holding the banister, slowly let the weight sink to your heels. Repeat.
Don't force it, though - you don't want to strain the tendon. With time, you'll be able to sink deeper and deeper.

equest
Sep. 2, 2009, 04:24 PM
Honestly, although you asked about unmounted exercises, the more you can work in two-point getting your weight in your heels, the better. I find this helps significantly.

RolyPolyPony
Sep. 2, 2009, 08:01 PM
I had a cousin who always walked on her tippy toes when she was a baby, and then couldn't walk regularly when she tried because her achilles tendon was short. They had her use like an elastic band and put in on the ball of her foot while sitting in a chair, and after a little while her tendon stretched and she could walk regularly. Recently, I told this story to a 12 year old girl at my barn that I babysit (who has always had a problem getting her heels down) and we found just a random stretchy strap and tried it on her. It worked! Maybe you could try that? We didn't kill her tendon, just stretched it enough that she could feel it but didn't hurt.:)

This has been the longest day of my life, so excuse me for being really dumb - but what exactly do you mean? I can't even picture it! :) Help!

RolyPolyPony
Sep. 2, 2009, 08:02 PM
Honestly, although you asked about unmounted exercises, the more you can work in two-point getting your weight in your heels, the better. I find this helps significantly.

That makes sense, but unfortunately I only have lessons once a week, so unmounted stuff will have to be the bulk of my time :(

RolyPolyPony
Sep. 2, 2009, 08:03 PM
Thanks for all the tips! I'll start giving them a try!

Mor4ward
Sep. 2, 2009, 08:18 PM
Honestly, although you asked about unmounted exercises, the more you can work in two-point getting your weight in your heels, the better. I find this helps significantly.

I totally agree, Equest. But for an older rider, with heels-down issues ... excessive two-point may damage the Achilles tendon, as the concussion of the gait is hard. That is why I suggested an exercise to slowly stretch said tendon, with a minimum of concussive shock.

Hay - we ain't all 18 anymore :(

SoldierBoy96
Sep. 3, 2009, 12:09 PM
I, too, have this unfortunate problem- I've been told I'm very stiff in my ankles and that makes the whole weighted-heel-shock-absorption thing difficult for me :( One of the main things I've heard is also the stair step exercise- lifting and dropping your heels, just to get your muscles and tendons stretchy.

p.s. one of my ankles cracks when I do circles with it :no:

Jolie_
Sep. 3, 2009, 01:08 PM
Well I am now in physio for my broken ankle (well almost non broken now) and her are the top exercises:

a) Ankle Up/Down - Sitting on a chair, pull foot towards head (i.e. with heal touching ground and toe facing up), Hold for count of 5 sec, lower slowly and push foot down, hold for count of 5. Repeat 10 times.

b)Foot Turning - Sit with one leg straight, turn sole of foot in 9do not move from hip as that is what you will automatically try to do...I hold my kneed to ensure I am only turning foot in and not leg). Hold for count of 5. Turn sole of foot out (again foot not hip). Hold for count of 5. Repeat 10 times.

c) Ankle Hold/Relax (Personal favorite) - Sit with one leg semi bent (i.e. sit on floor then bring in your foot until leg is in about a foot), loop a towel around foot, holding ends in hands. Push down agains the towel (so that you are attempting to make your foot look like a ballerina and using the towel to resist the push). Hold for count of 10. Relax and pull foot up toward your head using the towel to stretch the heel cord. Hold for the count of 10. Relax slowly. Repeat 10 times. You can also do this with the leg straight but she mentioned that if you bend the leg you are using a different calf muscle, the same one which is triggered in riding, so that is why she has me doing with bent leg.

There are others but those are the ones that I find the toughest. Good luck!

RolyPolyPony
Sep. 3, 2009, 07:26 PM
Thanks, Jolie - those sound great!!

SoldierBoy96 - I've discovered my left ankle cracks like heck when I do foot circles too. It's always been cracky, but I swear the circles make it sound like a machine gun!! Egads.