Monday, January 2, 2012

It's the start of 2012, let's have a ball!

Okay, don't worry if you just dropped your party clothes off at the cleaners.
I'm talking about a common, easy to find tennis ball (Penn brand works nicely). Before you go for that racket, sit down and take your shoes and socks off.
We are going to use our tennis ball as a self-myofascial release device, with a focus on the foot.

To ensure your body moves smoothly with a minimum of friction, muscles are enveloped in a slippery skin like tissue called fascia. This webbing of fascia that covers the muscles up and down the front and back of our body connect under our feet.
Our feet and ankles work as a sort of switch board for the rest of our body, harmonizing the jobs of foundation, shock absorber, and propulsion engine as well as providing flexibility and resiliency.
 26 bones, 33 joints, the over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, as well as a network of blood vessels, nerves, skin, and soft tissue all work together in a structure to form a system of arches.

Has your dog or kiddo ran off with your tennis ball yet? The afore mentioned arches are what we are going to focus on with our tennis ball and self myo-fascial release.

The following exercises can be done a few times throughout the week or everyday.

Medial arch – highest and most important (and abused quite frequently when we pronate or roll inwardly at the ankle). It is composed of the first three metatarsals (big toe to middle toe) as well as other bones.

Before you start rolling out the bottom of your foot, make sure that you are seated comfortably on a chair. To much shifting on a surface such as a couch may cause other muscle groups to tense, as most of your focus will be directed to the foot you are working. You may also be comfortable sitting on the floor, just be sure that you have your upper body positioned comfortably and you feel that you can control the amount of pressure exerted onto the ball (start gently rolling and you'll know what I mean about pressure).

You can start by slowly rolling the ball along the medial arch in a forward/backward motion. The first few times you will want to go easy on the pressure, then increase both speed and pressure in following sessions. You can even add small circular motions, clockwise and counter. You may even focus steady pressure on a specific spot. Listening to your foot will be your best guide. Remember, they are by design, very communicative! Most likely, the medial arch will be where you will spend the most time time rolling.

Lateral arch – longitudinal arch, lower and flatter than the medial arch. It is composed of the fourth and the fifth metatarsals (4th toe to pinky toe) as well as other bones.

Same guidelines as above.

Transverse arch – this arch is found at the base of the five metatarsals and at the base of the ball of the foot.
I have found that small circular motions work best for the transverse arch. Again, most of your time will be spent on the medial arch.

Be sure to work both feet, but not necessarily for the same durations of time. My left foot usually requires more attention than my right foot. Your feet will "talk" you through it, all you have to do is listen.

Who should do this? Dancers? Runners? In my never to be humble opinion, everyone. With the exclusion of those with leg and foot complications due to diabetes, peripheral neuropathy of the lower extremeties or any other leg or foot injury under the care of a doctor. Otherwise, if you have feet then you probably have muscles and fascia attached to them. And they would appreciate a little TLC.

So grab a tennis ball (buy a new one, don't take the dog's or your neighbor's), toss it in your gym bag, purse or car, and make self-myofascial release part of your regular routine.

Want to know a bit more about barefoot training? Check out this article.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

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