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MEGA CIRCUIT: 6 Exercises to Fix and Prevent Tight Calf Muscles and Ankles in Speed Training for Distance Runners

Tight stiff ankles in the very front of the ankle joint


OR


Ridiculously tight calf muscles that WILL NOT, for the love of the running gods, respond to any fancy stretches...


Neither are fun.

Period.


But BOTH seem to enjoy creeping up while you're in your summer of speed era.


And nobody has time for that when you're training the zoomies
...especially for fall marathon season.

Endurance and speed training blocks don't have to mean cranky ankles for 8 weeks straight.


But they are signaling something VERY IMPORTANT to you:

That it's time you try something NEW.


You're typical calf stretches can help...

But if you're finding you have to stop every mile or every couple miles to try and eek out some relief with a stretch,

...you're current solutions aren't actually solving the problem.


*TA-DA!*


This week's MEGA CIRCUIT has 2 PARTS:

  • Circuit 1: FIX the TIGHTNESS

  • Circuit 2: PREVENT the TIGHTNESS


Let's hop in!

FIX and PREVENT Tight Ankles for Long Distance Runners

Circuit 1: FIX

2-3 rounds // Medium weights

*BONUS TIP: USE AS A WARM UP and/or COOL DOWN!


Inline Lunge

  • 10 Reps ea side

Down Dog Dynamic Stretch

  • 3 reps ea side; hold for 3 secs, lower for 3 secs

Open Half Kneeling Ankle Glide with Kettle Bell

  • 8-10 Reps ea side X medium weight

1/2 Hooklying Quad Pump

  • to fatigue, 2x ea side minimum

Circuit 2: PREVENT

3 sets each // Medium weights


Calf Raise on Edge of Plate Halos

  • 6 reps clockwise/ 6 reps counter clockwise X medium weight

Foot on Edge of Step Curtsey Lunge

  • 8-12 Reps ea side X medium weight optional


FIX TIGHT CALF MUSCLES while Running a Speed Block

InLine Lunge

  • I know it looks a little funny.

  • TOP TIP: "let it be a tiny motion" is the number one thing I say to patients and runners first trying this exercise. But this drill does an amazing job of targeting any tightness in the very front of your ankle joints.

  • AND...give it minimum 2 rounds to work it's magic. Take a little walk break in between. And be sure to watch the video ;) (I promise you're not going to guess what the exercise is correctly from the name lol)

Down Dog Dynamic Stretch

  • An oldie but a goodie...

  • THE POINT: this exercise is for the runner who CRAVES that deep calf stretch. Here's a better and more effective way (in my opinion) to get that.

  • Down Dog is a great ankle and calf stretch to begin with. But adding in this contract-relax (coming up tip toes, hold, and slowly lower down) unlocks your muscles in an effective, longer-lasting way because we're engaging the muscle fibers themselves and earning their trust to relax rather than yanking, pulling, and forcing them to lengthen.

  • Results? Longer lasting and happier calves and ankles.


Open Half Kneeling Ankle Glide with Kettle Bell

  • Don't panic: you don't need a kettlebell. Just something heavy-ish.

  • KEY POINT: watch your knee! while holding that weight in front of your body, don't let it track over your big toe; rather keep your knee in line with your middle toes. The more you're able to turn out at the hip, the easier this will be

  • WHY THIS MATTERS: if you track over your big toe, it might look like you're working into more ankle mobility, but you're not. You might be "cheating" and gaining more ankle motion through a foot motion called pronation (which isn't bad! it's just not what we're looking for in this particular exercise)


1/2 Hooklying Quad Pump

  • Yup, it looks funky. But man, does it work!

  • THE SECRET: we're literally "hacking your body" to release your calf muscle. By furiously pumping that straight leg as fast as you can, you automatically engage and squeeze your quad, whose job is to straighten your knee.

  • Which means, your quad's opposite team-mate, your gastroc, which also plays a role in bending your knee, is forced to relax. This is your solution to constantly tight calf muscles!


Calf Raise on Edge of Plate Halos

  • mobility exercises alone only gets your so far.

  • KEY POINT: You have to teach your body to hold on to this new range you've work so hard for!

  • This exercise is a ankle stability and balance challenge. Take your time; take breaks as needed. Your body is learning how to build a strong calf, strong foot, strong single leg balance while your spin a weight around your head which creates perturbations (fancy word for you feel the wibble/wobble of the weight going around your head because it changes your center of mass)

  • this exercise is great if you're a runner who feels like your ankle pain travels around ankle and is constantly switching spots!


Foot on Edge of Step Curtsey Lunge

  • Best part: easy to do at home!

  • PRO TIP: hold onto something if you need to! This is another exercise that targets your ankle strength while also helping you develop foot strength. Strong ankles and feet are KEY for injury proof training cycles.

  • If you're a runner who's dealt with any posterior tib tendonitis or achilles issues in the past, you're going to want to especially incorporate this exercise.

  • Because we hit foot strength, ankle strength, AND glute activation here, reminding your entire leg how to work together as team!


WRAPPING UP


TLDR: WHAT MAKES THESE EXERCISES DIFFERENT

This is not me attacking your favorite stretches.

If they work for you: fantastic!


But every runner has encountered that moment where "something" that used to work and fix all the issues suddenly...

isn't so effective any more.


Having this mega-circuit in your back pocket ensure that YOU always have a solution.

A tool kit you can pull out.


Because your body is strong!

Runners still get a lot of flack for endless miles and almost nearly as many endless injuries.


But I disagree with that narrative.

I know how strong physically (and mentally) you have to be to tackle your training plan.


So don't let tight ankles or calf muscles sideline you.


There's a lot of mediocre solutions out there on the internet for runners

...and frankly, that breaks my heart.

Because I know how special this sport is.

And you deserve answers and solutions that work as hard as you do.


If you want to deep dive and learn more about how to strength train like a runner and build the exact strength you need for running, I've got a FREE Running Guide and FREE 14 Day Strength Challenge.


You can find those HERE!


Until next time, running fit fam


Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //@dr.whitt.fit


P.S. no really, grab one of those freebies to unlock your full running potential ;)

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