Jump higher, run faster

We'll make a skater out of you yet!

. The following six foot drills, illustrated below are to simply walk on the outside of the foot (invert the foot), walk on the inside of the foot (evert the foot), walk with a toe-in or pigeon-toed gait (adduct the foot), walk backwards on the toes, walk with the toes pointing out (a la Charlie Chaplin) and with the shoes back on, walk on the heels - this protects against bruising the heel.

image courtesy of skimoves.me

· done daily or every workout day. each drill is done once for 25 meters

· drills are done in the stocking feet or bare footed. surface is preferably grass but any flat, clean surface will do. results will be subtle but should be noted in about 2-3 weeks

· benefits include: decrease in injuries, improved cornering, improved jumping ability

· consistent use of the foot drill will decrease or eliminate shin splints, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis and knee problems

· total time to do the, drills is about 3 minutes

Done daily these six drills will eliminate shin splints, Achilles' tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, lessen the chance of a severe ankle sprain and virtually all knee problems. The famous Rice Study done in the early 90s found that 79% of running injuries are from the knee down. One of the reasons I had successful teams is that my athletes made it to the competition day healthy and ready to compete. Season after season was completed with virtually no injuries.

It should be noted that there are three problems with the foot drills: they are simple, they are easy and they are free. It doesn't involve more than taking off one's shoes and putting one foot in front of the another. But that is easier said than done.

Why do the foot drills work? There is very little muscle in the foot, but a lot of nerve endings. This presents a problem because most of the balance and proprioceptive sense we get comes from our muscles. A second point is that the neuromuscular pathway (the communication line) from the brain to the foot is the longest and slowest in the body. This leads to bad, or at best, poor coordination of the foot. If you doubt that put a pen between your toes and try to write your name.

The demands of athletic participation, be it running, jumping or quick starts and stops places tremendous stresses on the foot. In fact, the foot must sustain seven times the body's weight with simple running and up to 15-20x body weight in some jumping activities. Done repeatedly this is how an overuse syndrome such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis or Achilles' tendinitis develops.

By challenging the foot with various gaits one develops a clearer pathway from the foot to the brain. Clearer pathways are faster and more responsive. This gives one better balance and proprioception. Each foot strike becomes more "sure," the foot contacts the ground without a wobble, however slight that wobble might be. It is because of this "sure foot stride" that the overuse syndromes (Achilles' tendinitis, plantar fasciitis or shin splints) are eliminated.

It has been said that running is a ground contact sport. It is this repeated micro trauma of ground strike, repeated 1000s of times that can lead to injury. Other factors such as running surfaces and proper shoe selection can influence the incidence of injury. But I will contend, with a great deal of assurance, that the six-foot drills, done consistently, will have a tremendous positive benefit on one's athletic participation and performance. Applying the simple, easy and free.

The last note. The foot drills will also make you faster. I mentioned the slight "wobble" of each foot strike. More accurately described a wobble is lateral side to side motion. Speed is generally straight ahead. If, on each foot strike there is the wobble or lateral motion before there is the forward motion, there is lost time, not much, but some. If one's ground contact time can be reduced 1/100th of a second (it takes 14/100ths to blink an eye) the cumulative effect can drastically improve one's performance.

Consider this - if one takes 50 steps in the 100m, 50 X 1/100th of a second = 50/100 of a second or 1/2 of a second. One-half second is the difference between the 9th place spectator and the Olympic Gold Medallist. In a mile this reduced ground contact time translates to an 8-10 second difference and in the 10K it means between 50-60 seconds. An improvement made in the blink of an eye, one step at a time. Simple, easy and free.

Ankles

Every athlete knows how a rolled ankle can affect performance. If you've been playing for a while, you've either seen it happen to a teammate or experienced it yourself. (See Prevent or Rehab Ankle Sprains With These Strategies.)

Ankle instability is just another weak link in your body. If you suffer from weak ankles, understanding what is happening at the ankle joint can be very helpful. Schedule a meeting with your sports medicine staff and ask the tough questions. Make time to find what works for you. Preparation before the season starts can lead to great success on the field, court, pool, or track. (See also Drills to Develop Ankle Stability.)

Another huge key is modifying your strength training program to cure ankle weakness. This will help you develop a plan to regain control and confidence.

Assess the weak links of your body and how you will address them in your athletic development program. Identify them, progressively train them and evaluate your movement patterns regularly. Strength training, flexibility work and massage are three techniques to help fortify the areas of your body that may put you on the sideline.

Strengthening Program

As a strength and conditioning coach, one of the most common sports injuries I see is the inversion ankle sprain, in which the ligaments tear when the foot turns too far iward. If athletes would just devote 10 minutes each day to ankle strength, they would go a long way toward preventing this type of sprain.

The program is fairly basic. It focuses on strengthening the surrounding muscles that keep the ankle from inverting too far. Balance also plays a key role in preventing ankle issues, and that is also addressed in the program.

Give this a try for a few weeks, and I promise you will see positive results.

Guidelines

· Perform two sets of each exercise for each ankle whether you have ever sprained them or not.

· Perform all exercises without shoes to maximize flexibility.

4-Way Resistance/Mini Band

Using a resistance band, hang your feet off the edge of a table and turn your ankle inward (inversion), outward (eversion), straight down (plantar flexion), and toward your face (dorsiflexion). Do each exercise with tension on the resistance band in the opposing direction.

Sets/Reps: 2x10

Single Leg Calf Raise

With one knee flexed, do a full calf raise on the opposite leg for slow and controlled repetitions.

Sets/Reps: 2x15

Single-Leg Balance

Stand on the floor and close your eyes for 30 seconds as you balance on one leg. As it gets easier, progress to standing on a foam pad, Dyna Disc, etc.

Sets/Duration: 2x30 seconds

Heel/Toe Walking

Walk forward 15 feet using only your toes, then turn around and return to the starting point, walking on your heels. Do two sets.

Ankle Strengthening Exercises

Toe raises

· Stand on a stair or ledge with your heel over the edge.

· Stand up on your tiptoes, then in a controlled manner, lower the heel.

· Repeat 10 to 20 times on each foot four times a day.

Alphabet writing

· While seated or lying down on your side, write the alphabet in the air with your toes.

· Make the letters as big as possible.

· Get creative by trying all uppercase, then lower case, then cursive, and so on.

Heel and toe walking

· Walk on your toes for one minute.

· Walk on your heels for one minute.

· Alternate walking on your heel and toes.

· Work up in total time of 10 minutes, repeating four times each day.

Figure eights

· Jog in a figure-eight pattern around cones.

· At first, place the cones near each other.

· Each day, spread out the cones and increase your speed

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