Whilst we should be spending time on stretching and releasing foot, ankle and lower leg tension, equally, we should be effectively strengthening this area as well. Now, you may think as runners we will have strong feet, Achilles and calves but this is not always the case… and insufficient strength here can lead to less than optimal running form and painful plantar fasciitus.
The plantar fascia is a dense, fibrous tissue that runs the length of the sole of the foot, that provides stability and arch support. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of this tissue, caused from excess stress with over-use and lack of protection ie. weakness. Wearing over-supportive shoes is a culprit!
Recent research shows that strength training greatly improves results in plantar fasciitis suffers, compared with only stretching and shoe supports. (Note, I do not promote shoe supports!)
Pain and inflammation in the plantar fascia (PF) can be due to weakness of the intrinsic muscles of the foot, which lie above this fascia. In today’s video I mention ‘strengthening the plantar fascia’, as the PF works so closely with its adjacent muscles – but it’s these small, unknown and neglected muscles that we want to strengthen, we can’t actually strengthen the fascia itself.
In this video I’ll share 3 great ways to strengthen the foot muscles, the big toe, Achilles and calves.
Recently, I did a short video on releasing the feet and low legs, so this is a great one to complement it.
So there you have 3 fairly simple, yet challenging, poses to build strength in the feet, in the big toe which we need for driving off of, in the Achilles so that it’s protected and in the calves.
– foot scrunches on block
– toe balance heel lifts
– high lunge knee tap (lift and drop heel)
How did you get on? Discover anything new or interesting?
Thanks so much for reading and watching!
See you next time,
Our IT band is that thick band of fascia that runs from the ilium at the top on the hip, down the outer thigh, and attaches just under the knee to the tibia. As I wrote a few weeks ago, it’s main function is to keep our knees in place when we move, linking them to the pelvis for stability.
You may be aware that many runners suffer with IT Band Syndrome, which often manifests as a horrible burning pain in the outer knee. It’s caused when the connective tissue of the ITB becomes inflammed, when repeatedly irritated against the femoral epicondyal as the knee flexes and extends – which his why this complaint is so rife in runners!
If you suffer with this, there are several things we can do. They are all relatively simple but, as with all worthwhile things, take consistency and commitment 🙂
- Get your running gait checked (ideally on one of our Run Better with Yoga Retreats!). Heel strikers suffer with IT issues more, and usually feel the pain when the heel hits the ground.
- Learning to change to mid foot landing and run with a safer, more efficient technique can take some time and dedication. As you strengthen, release and gain greater awareness of the right areas for good form, you will simultaneously be helping to relieve the ITBS.
- Focus on strengthening the pelvic stabilisers and
- Focus on releasing TFL.
Yoga can do this fantastically, particularly with these few moves, in addition to my other video on this topic last month.
In this video, I’ll show you 3 or 4 ways to help relieve, or keep ITBS, at bay.
It really can be simple to stay injury-free, it just takes awareness and a bit of discipline to create new habits 😉
Did you like this video? Let me know just below!
All my best,
The feet and lower legs are an often overlooked area when it comes to stretching and strengthening – but for runners it’s essential.
In this video I’ll teach you 5 simple poses that will stretch out the soles, ankles and Achilles. Why? Feet are designed to get used a lot, but they’re often kept in shoes that don’t allow for their natural movement. High-heels, and even running shoes with a high sole at the heel, cause contraction in the calves and the arches. Once in a while this is fine, but over time can create an imbalance and injury, such as plantar fasciitus.
Plantar fasciitus can be caused when repetitive movement creates too much stress and tension in the fascia, leading to severe heel pain. So, pre-existing tension in the foot will contribute. The other cause of PF can be lack of strength in the foot, and the wrong shoes – this we’ll cover next month!
If you run a lot, or have a job that requires you to stand for many hours a day, then take care of your feet. Do this class, or similar, regularly.
How do you feet and ankles feel before and after?
If you have plantar fasciitus, then go really slow and probably only part way into these poses. It can help but listen to what feels good and what doesn’t.
All my best, Helen
Write to me, just below 🙂
Piriformis is a small muscle in the centre of the butt, under the glutes. It runs from the sacro-iliac joint to the top of the thigh bone and its function is to externally rotate the hip joint ie. turn the leg outward.
Now, whether you knew it was your piriformis or not, you’ve likely been aware of it – as it has a tendency to get super tight – either from over-use, or under-use!! When it seems like you just can’t win, there are a few things that we can be doing regularly, as part of our yoga practice, to keep on top of it.
In this video I’ll be showing you 3 different exercises and yoga postures, that together, will help to:
→ release tension in the piriformis muscle
→ build strength in the smaller, deeper external hip rotators
If we can recruit the other, smaller muscles to pull their weight, we can take workload off poor piriformis, relieving potential pain.
You might be familiar with Pigeon pose (I’m going to share a great variation on this next month) but it’s certainly not the only – or the best, in my opinion – pose to release piriformis tension. So, in addition to the strength work, this video features a supine figure 4 pose, and a supine Garudasana, that both really effectively provide a stretch to Piriformis, without compromising the knee with body weight.
Always think strength + stretch when trying to treat an area.
The releasing poses should feel good, if intense – any sharp or nervy pain, stop and get it checked out.
Thank you for reading and watching. I’d love to hear from you now – do you enjoy working on this area? I find it’s a love/ hate relationship!
All my best,
The abbreviation: ITB, is thrown around a lot in running circles, sadly usually because so many runners have complaints there! But, just in case you are unaware of what the term actually refers to, the Iliotibial Band, or ITB, is a long band of thick fascia that runs along the outer thigh.
Its main job is to help keep our knees in place when we move, so it needs to carry a certain amount of tension to do this. Plus, we cannot stretch it, even if we wanted to!
But too much tension can be created when the muscle that it attaches to, the TLF (I talked about this last week), itself gets too tight, pulling excessively on the ITB, which in turn pulls on the knee causing pain.
In this video I’ll share a couple great ways to relieve tension in TFL and one simple exercise we can do towards helping to prevent it getting too tight in the first place.
The key take away here is that, if you have ITBS (iliotibial band syndrome), or knee pain, we cannot fix it through sports massage and foam rolling, although these can both help. We need to get to the root of why the pain has come about in the first place.
The poses and exercises in this video can give you a really great indication:
- we start with the side lying abductions – can you do this easily, for 15 repetitions? Does it get tiring more quickly on one side to the other? Can you isolate the movement to feel the primary engagement coming from the gluteous medius? Or, can you only feel it in the centre of your butt? If it is difficult, fatiguing, difficult to isolate then this could be an indication of weakness that you need to develop. Or, you just need practice in switching on the right muscles! It does take some focus, and this is where yoga is so much more than movement. This is the focus that we take into our running to avoid bad ingrained habits and start recruiting the most effective muscles for efficient running.
- we then use the strap to try to find a stretch into TFL – how does this feel? Subtly here is a good thing. If you feel a lot here, and actually I recommend this to everyone anyway – get a LAX ball in here by lying on your front/ side. More on this in a future video 😉
It’s all lying down, so enjoy!
I look forward to hearing your thoughts, comment just below 👇🏼
Have a great rest of the week,
PS. Next week we have another brand new video focusing on the hips, in particular piriformis. See you then!