Stretching may seem like a tedious thing to do. But as you get older, your tendons, muscles and joints become stiffer, rigid and less flexible. Some of the most debilitating injuries individual's encounter around the age 40 occur in the lower leg. Learn a few stretches for the lower-leg muscles in order to avoid major injuries, such as a ruptured Achilles tendon.
I want you to do a quick 5-minute walk on the treadmill or around the area you are going to be exercising at. This will initiate blood flow to your muscles and will provide for a safer stretching routine. In addition, it will let your body know that activity is in the future.
2. Standing Calves Stretch
One leg is placed forward (like a forward lunge) and one is placed back (straight with heel flat on the ground). Place your hands on a support beam for balance and slightly lean forward so you can feel the stretch in the calves muscle belly from the leg that is back. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds (repeat the stretch for the other leg).
3. Single Standing Calve Stretch
Find a small curb/step, place both feet on the curb/step, let one of your feet slide back about 4 inches and hang down until you feel a stretch. Your other foot is still on the step and it is not hanging over. You are going to alternate in order to maintain balance when doing this stretch. Do not bounce through this movement because you do not want to risk straining a muscle prior to your activity (repeat the stretch for the other calves).
4. Making Circles/Ankle Rotation
I want you to hold onto a pole, bar or stable surface and place the tip of your foot on the floor. In a circular motion I want you to make circles with your foot/ankle by making keeping the tip of the toe in contact with the floor. This will lightly stretch and warm up the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the ankle/foot area. Do this both directions and with both feet (20 circles in each directions per foot).
5. Standing Calves Raises
You want to perform these on a flat ground and just go up and down (raise to your toes and then back to a flat foot stance). Only perform one set of these to get the calves even more warmed by providing blood flow to those areas. This should be done in a nice smooth manner for 20 repetitions.
6. Final Step
Do a few practice foot movement patterns that will replicate the activity you are going to be doing. If you are going to be swinging a golf club, then warm up performing that movement, but at a slower pace. If you are going to be playing tennis, then do some side to side and forward movements to get your lower body prepared for those quick adjustments when playing. If you are going to be running, do some quick practice jogs lasting about five to ten seconds.
As a last word, if you are consistently tight in the lower leg area or sometimes feel tension down there, you need to incorporate these stretches most days of the week. That tugging tension you feel when not exercising can be signs that a possible injury is in your near future, so you need to be cautious and start incorporating a stretching routine. If it is a constant pain, then I would go to your general practitioner to do testing for other types of medical possibilities. If you do tear a calves muscle or an Achilles tendon, recuperation time can be anywhere from six months to a year.
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