I am not allowed to dance in them yet, but my PT gave me permission to start wearing my heels to do some of my exercises! Yay! It's been three months, and folks, maybe this sounds girly, but I just don't feel my normal self wandering around in flat sandals with toe separators on.
Working the arches and ankles: Magic Metatarsal
I have lost a lot of balance and strength in three months. My PT says that every two weeks of not exercising/dancing/whatever results in an appreciable change in the muscles. I am not even going to count this in sets of two weeks, or I would cry.
I use the phrase "magic metatarsals" to describe where to focus the work of the foot for dancing, walking, standing--everything. If you get off your toes and into your arch, you are moving the way humans are designed to move naturally. This makes your movement more graceful, organic--pretty!
Exercise #1: The magic metatarsal
Tango (and tango shoes) require that you use your foot correctly when the weight is off the heels (pivoting)--or else you will suffer in your toes. I love it that Seth Watterson, my chiropractor and physical trainer, thinks my feet are in great shape for a dancer. "You must being doing something right!" he said when I told him how many hours I spend in heels (before the injury).
Pivoting on the injured foot (my left), as if for a back ocho or any back cross step, still doesn't work right, so I am focusing on fixing that. This exercise does not pivot, but it prepares my foot to be in the right position for pivoting. These photos are steps 1, 2 & 3 below. Yes, the changes are subtle: this is a tiny move!
Starting with my heels touching the floor,
- I make sure my arches are engaged, my knees are soft and my core is toned.
- As I raise my heels higher, I work to stay in the same alignment.
- As I reach the highest point I can do this correctly, I re-engage my core and arches for the SLOW trip back to heels on floor.
If you grab a straight edge and line it up on the pictures, you will notice that my bone alignment stacks up over my arch, not my toes (compare with below).
At the moment, I can only do this exercise with my hands on a support (notice, furniture works great as a ballet barre!). When I am in top form, I can do this unsupported. Ladies, if you can't do this without support, that means you are leaning on the leader: do you want that to happen? NO! This is why I am mostly leading when dancing right now :-)
On your toes is WRONG!
Mostly of us tend to lean onto our toes, bring our hips forward, and grip at the knees to get our heels off the ground.
Tips for doing the exercise (and all training, frankly)
- If you can only do the exercise a few times correctly, then only do that.
- Your first one is usually your best: why not do just one, but once an hour?
- Visualize, visualize, visualize! If your muscles are not strong enough to do this correctly, stand on your foot and think about your arch, engage those muscles lightly, and release.
- Wiggle your toes: it is almost impossible to do this and clench your feet, so it will help relax into alignment.
- Try it barefoot before trying it in heels.
OK, folks, more later!