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Nothing boosts my energy like a nice long run. It's after I've clocked in some miles that soreness and stiffness throughout my ankles flare up — a discomfort I always shrug off with some ankle rolls.
Yes, my small effort to loosen my ankles is somewhat helpful — but, Kristina Jennings, CSCS, CFSC, and strength coach for the personal training app Future, says there is more to the discomfort than I realize. When there is pain plus a lack of range of motion in a joint, that often means the muscle group above or below that joint could use some mobility or soft-tissue work.
Since the Achilles tendon connects the ankle joint to the calf muscle, Jennings recommends the standing calf stretch (aka the wall calf stretch!) for relief. The move is efficient because it targets two main calf muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus.
"The gastrocnemius muscle is located on the back portion of the lower backside of the leg, being one of the two major muscles that make up the calf. The other major calf muscle, the soleus muscle, is a flat muscle that lies underneath the gastrocnemius."
Adding the standing calf stretch to your warmup repertoire is a great way to make your joints feel good before unloading on them. This is especially true if you love impact-focused exercises like strength training, HIIT, biking, running, and sprinting, Jennings adds.
Typically, you'd perform the standing calf stretch while still — Jennings can walk you through how to do it correctly, ahead. But, rocking back and forth in a dynamic way while driving your knee over your toe can increase the stretch's impact on ankle mobility, too, she confirms.
Give the stretch a try, and see how you feel — if at any point you experience pain, stop and seek guidance from your doctor.
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- Place your feet shoulder-width apart, about 12 inches away from a wall.
- Step one foot forward about six inches away from the wall while keeping the same foot planted and toes pointed straight ahead.
- You should feel a deep stretch in your lead leg's calf. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, and then switch sides.