When we think about human history, there are few common factors of life that have been consistent throughout all of time, except for the human body. We did not have 3 arms in 764 B.C. and we did not suddenly grow an extra eyeball in 24 A.D. We have consistently had two arms, two legs, etc. What is very different between the cultures of the past versus the cultures of today (excluding a few areas of the world) is how we use our bodies today. Up until the 1920’s and on humans had very few options when it came to transportation, especially when it came to short distances, it was either run, walk, or ride a horse for the most part. So now you ask yourself, “Self, what does this have to do with anything?” I’m glad you asked!
Think about how we live around the world today, we mostly drive everywhere, especially when it comes to getting food. Almost wherever you go, there will always be at least one fast food restaurant, making food always available. Throughout history and in early America the way you got your food was hunt or gather, both of which require you to work for your food (And yes I understand you could buy it, but you still had to actually move your body to get to the seller). What we have learned about the body is that the calf muscle is an endurance muscle, meaning it was meant to give you the strength to run or walk for miles at a time because humans were made to run and move! The current lack of walking or running throughout the day leaves our calves severely weakened (and the rest of our legs), because they literally do nothing but just hang there while you are sitting. From this we don’t even know that we are inadvertently losing our balance strength and the strength of our Achilles’ tendons. As we get older our balance naturally declines, and we of course understand that falling in the elderly leads to broken bones, so training balance should not go away as you get older. There are also times in almost all people’s lives where we trip/roll our ankles, and one of the greatest ways to protect your ankles is by strengthening the stabilizing muscles. As far as the health of the Achilles tendon, it is essential to comfortably walking, squatting at any capacity (sitting on the toilet and couch), running, jumping, going up stairs, etc. those activities are completely functional and part of a normal life, so not being able to take part in any of these things will affect your normal lifestyle. To make it even more important, more often than not your ankle dysfunction can also cause other problems upstream on the body because the Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body; such as the knees, hips, and low back pain. It isn’t as easy to realize the possible upstream dysfunction without someone that is well versed in the body’s normal movement, so if you suspect this is referring to you first ask a coach you trust and then move on to medical professional from there. Thankfully there are so many solutions that can help you take back the integrity of your ankles!
This is going to be a list of things that you can just work on right away! Try them out as a warm up before exercise, at home, or at work! Enjoy the special appearances from Milo!
1. GET UP FROM YOUR DESK OR COUCH! But seriously, get up and move at least once every hour, act like you’re going to the bathroom or just stand up for 5 minutes. Walking or standing further strengthens your ankle/achilles’.
2. Perform 20 reps of a calf raise per leg every day for a week and increase it by 10 reps for every week thereon up until 60. (Hold onto a something to help balance if necessary)
3. Stand on a pillow/pile of clothes/abmat (preferably without shoes) and balance on one leg for one minute per leg. Try with your eyes closed and if you literally cannot than open your eyes. Do this everyday until the day you die, you’ll thank me.
4. Stand on a stair, book, or a ledge and perform 15 reps of a deep calf raise with a 4 sec. eccentric contraction. It has been proven that eccentric exercises play a large role in strengthening tendons. (Hold onto a something to help balance if necessary)
5. GET OUT OF THE GYM! Go hiking, walk your dog, run with your significant other, walk to the store, or go ice climbing in Alaska!
When it comes down to it, I really don’t care about you snatching 300 pounds or have the fastest Fran time in the world, I want you to live a long and healthy life that allows you to live a life of adventure. I know these things aren’t “sexy” but as we can all attest to, it’s the small things that count greatest in life. Start taking the steps to a life where injury and chronic pain are a way of the past.