Did you know each foot is made up of 26 bones, 30 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, all of which work together to provide support, balance and mobility. Your feet and legs are the first structures that allow you to be upright. They are important!
For the past five years we have been teaching our clients to warm up their feet as the first thing they do in the studio. There are many ways to do this. We have a pair of foot wakers—little gold shaped domes that live around the studio where we enter, we have a bucket of all the supplies from the foot kits given out years ago for the holidays. There are balls, poles, all sorts of little fun things that will give you this piece of your workout. When we take five minutes to soften up the feet, mobilize the joints or even massage them, we make room for a natural expansion and springiness of the foot. Now we place these feet on a piece of apparatus or into the mat and floor and we can ground our bodies easily.
The biggest question I receive from our clients is “ I don’t remember what I should do.” Ok, cool, let’s address that:
Step #1: Your feet need to be loosened up and the tissues softened to the point that you can mobilize your joints. Examples, rolling your foot on a ball. Standing on the foot wakers when you arrive to the studio, rolling with the pole through the various areas. Imagine standing on the soft ground in spring. They all feel different but bring out the same effects. Think of making the feet malleable so you can sense their capacity for motion.
Step #2: Joint mobility! Each area of the foot has a unique capacity for motion. The toes are capable of individually lengthening and articulating motion. The arch expands, stretches when pressed into the floor or when weight is distributed within in. On the same token when weight is taken off the foot the arch springs upwards as well. The ankle structure to the heel also needs motion. Think of flexing and extending the ankle with a theraband. Also ,the joint is circular so it needs rotational movements. The ankle and heels can get really stuck if not articulated. Examples of these exercises are the towel, the pencil, Pilates foot corrector, caterpillars on the floor and ankle mobilizers.
Step #3: Alignment and equal weight distribution through the foot and ankle structures. Let’s face it, life is hardly ever balanced perfectly. We come to the studio to create even movement patterns for our bodies to prevent injuries or improve an issue we are having. Unbalanced movement patterns in the body are a gateway to disfunction.* When the foot is agile and unstuck our weight distribution within it provides the base for the legs to connect downward and into the ankle/foot. In the studio we provide our clients with feedback to align their feet when exercising because truly we are all connected. Examples of this are any exercise where we connect our foot —ALL exercises do this unless the legs are within the air.
Now you can see why I have been the cheerleader for your feet so avidly over the past few years. Feet are lovely and fun and improve your balance. Check out our foot series of videos on our youtube channel any time you need a reminder of what to do with your feet today. Or better yet, ask us when you come in for class to show you the tools for your warmups.