We already know that limitations in ankle range of motion can affect our movement and overall health. What about asymmetries between the ankles?
It's not uncommon to develop an asymmetry at the ankle. In fact, most of the time after a minor or major injury like a ankle sprain or an ACL tear, we are left with a difference in mobility.
This could be due to the body attempting to protect itself and/or inadequate rehabilitation. What we do know is that you move differently after an injury. You shift your weight more to one side and lose alignment. When we lose alignment we place excess stress elsewhere, potentially causing pain or contributing to dysfunctional movement.
An asymmetry at the ankle may cause us to shift away from the limitation in a squat. It may affect the way we walk, and it may change the way we jump and land.
Are your ankles symmetrical?
Limited range of motion at the ankle can cause excess stress at the knees, and spine, while negatively affecting common movements such as the squat, running, jumping, and balancing.
Healthy individuals should be able to actively dorsiflex their ankles 40-50 degrees when their foot is in a closed chain environment (fancy language for in contact w/ the floor in this situation). This is measured based on shin angle in comparison to the ground.
As human beings we are meant to move freely and effortlessly. However, as we have evolved our daily tasks have become automated and less and less movement has been required from us. Most of us are desk jockeys. For this reason as well as others, our movement has been altered. If proper human movement isn’t addressed we will develop movement limitations. Movement limitations act as roadblocks or emergency brakes. They slow us down and cause unnecessary wear and tear. With clean movement, we find ourselves in an optimally aligned position which produces the most amount of force with the least amount of effort.
How's your movement? What do you do to keep your movement quality high?
Sometimes just doing something, anything, is the best thing you can do. Feeling tired, brain dead, tight, or in pain? The best solution may be to get up and move. It doesn’t have to be 90 minutes of exercise, it doesn’t have to include a perfect warm-up. It could be something as simple as a 5 minute walk.
Try it out, we bet you’ll feel better and think more clearly.
What do you do when you’re not feeling well?
We should be training for something. We shouldn't just be working out to burn calories. Your workouts should have a purpose. Why are you doing that exercise? Why are you doing that many reps? If the answer doesn’t help you reach your goal you may need to reevaluate your training.
Are your workouts helping you reach your goals?
The quality of your workout should not be determined by how sore you are. The quality of your workout should be determined by how you feel. Contrary to popular opinion, soreness is not related to effectiveness. In fact, sometimes soreness can slow progress. Slight soreness in muscles for 1-2 days can be normal but is typically only caused after doing something new and novel. Pain should never be felt in the joints. Wouldn't it be nice to achieve your goals without grimacing every time you sit down?
Do you measure the effectiveness of your workout based on your level of soreness?
It’s easy to feel helpless after experiencing pain or injury. It’s hard to feel like an athlete once you’re no longer on the team. We get that. We’ve been through it. And we see others go through it daily. Life changes, our bodies change, and our goals change. It’s now more about what you can do to feel better. It’s about continuing to do the things you love like playing with your kids, or going on a hike. We’re here to remind you that you’re not broken.
You’re still an athlete. You’re just playing a different sport now. Train for it.
Many people have developed a fear of exercise. Sometimes this comes from past coaches who punished us with exercise. Sometimes it comes from an overwhelming amount of confusing information. Sometimes it’s because we were taught more was better. Sometimes it’s because we were made to believe that one size fits all. Advise that encourages us to try the workout of the day (even if our body wasn’t ready yet). Sometimes we just need to take our time and listen to our bodies. Sometimes all we need is a helping hand. Someone to treat you like the individual that you are.
We don’t have to fear exercise. Exercise is way too valuable for our physical, mental, and long-term health.
Take the challenge to feel comfortable in your body again.
Foam rolling has been under some scrutiny lately due to the fact that what we once thought it did is no longer popular belief. Its been called the poor man's massage, and with this name came the assumption that it was on par with soft tissue work from a massage professional. Although it has been mentioned that foam rolling will never be as valuable as actual hands-on attention, the differences have never really been clearly explained. Due to this fact, some people are now questioning the value of foam rolling altogether. However, just because it doesn’t do what we once thought it did doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.
It used to be believed that foam rolling created a change within the tissue. A change much like the effects of a deep tissue massage. Following this line of logic, the pressure applied by the roller would produce a chemical reaction that would in-turn create a change within the tissue (breakup adhesions, knots, realign fiber direction, etc). However, many practitioners have explained that the pressure is not great enough, and the absence of a shearing force between layers of tissue prevents foam rolling from having the same effect. If you have ever had a relaxing massage, and a deep tissue massage, you already understand the difference between the two. A deep tissue massage leaves you sore like you worked out the day before. A relaxing massage makes you feel refreshed and renewed. Foam rolling is like a relaxing massage, while deep tissue work will have you feeling the effects the next day. These are both valuable in their own way, just commonly misunderstood.
So, if foam rolling doesn’t create change within the tissue why do we see positive results? Foam rolling moves bound fluid out and new fluid in (increasing blood flow and aiding in lymphatic drainage). With this process comes a renewal of tissue, removal of waste, and delivery of nourishment. All very positive results. However, the most important aspect of foam rolling involves its effect on the nervous system. On a very basic level, the human body alternates between a stressed state (sympathetic) and a relaxed state (parasympathetic). It is this very shifting that keeps us alive and well. The problem is, is that most of us find ourselves stuck in a stressed state with a certain inability to relax. With daily stress, inactivity, and instability, we find ourselves stuck in this state. If we are permanently in a stressed state, recovery suffers, sleep suffers, we compensate with poor movement patterns, and tissues begin to breakdown. This is why it’s so important to find ways to tell our body that it is in fact okay to relax.
One effective strategy to help the body shift back to a relaxed state happens to be foam rolling. Foam rolling uses pressure to basically trick the brain into letting go of artificial tension. When you look at the recent popularity of the Postural Restoration Institute, where this concept is discussed, it makes a lot of sense. Most of us are just neurologically tight and in a bad position. We may not have any mobility or muscle length problems present in the first place. When the nervous system feels threatened it guards us from injury by creating superficial stability (what most would feel as tightness). PRI's method uses breathing to get the body to let go of this guarding. Foam rolling uses pressure to tell the body to let go. Once the nervous system relaxes we gain range of motion and we feel a decrease in tension. With increases in range of motion we get closer to our ideal length tension relationships. These normalized relationships take pressure off of secondary tissues and allow primary tissues to perform at an optimal level. All without stretching one thing.
At the end of the day, if we can get the nervous system to let go of its death grip and give us increases in ROM without even having to stretch, we’re going to program it. Foam rolling is only a small piece of the puzzle and creating change depends on several components within an integrated system. Strategies such as foam rolling, breathing, and static stretching only temporarily create change. What they really do is create a window of opportunity to create lasting change. The real question is what you do with that window.
Still not sold? Lebron is...