Just the video, ma'am!
For those of you who don't like to read, here is the video, right at the top where you can find it!
A big thank you!
Thanks for all the nice /website messages about my last video! So nice that all of this work learning to shoot and edit video is helping other people. As a shy person, it is VERY hard to turn that camera on. Don't be fooled by how much I talk: I talk a lot more when I am nervous! For me, this is almost as awful as those dreams where you realize you don't have clothing on in a public place...
It's been fun to (re)connect with dancers from all over the country. I was thinking about working on my ocho video, but a viewer asked me about ankle strengthening exercises (Hi, Lisa!).
For those of you who don't like to read, I will try to talk through most of this on the video; but some of us still like the written word!
My ankle history
As a child, I was always the person twisting/straining/spraining my ankles. I constantly rolled over the sides of my feet and hurt them. For those of you who know me well, you know I have almost zero stereo vision, so part of this was due to not being able to see very well. However, I also inherited my mother's weak ankles. I remember Mom driving to school to tape my ankles so that I could run track (my school required all of us, even us slow folks, to take part in track meets). I always seemed to have ace bandages on.
I didn't get stronger ankles until I took about six years of West African dance in grad school and afterwards. By the time I got serious about tango, I had strong ankles.
Now, after my foot injury, I am just beginning to put my 9 cm. tango stilettos back on, and I notice that my ankles are not as strong as previously. In the video clips that follow, I will show you how to stretch and strengthen your ankles so that YOU can wear tango heels and not get injured.
Foot & ankle: 26 bones, 31 joints, 20 muscles
A complex system of bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles holds us up and moves us around. No wonder we have so many foot and ankle issues!
Warm up first!
Get the blood flowing in your system before doing stretches and strengthening exercises. Even if you just go walk around the block, that will help you protect your body while improving your tango. I usually do arm and legs swings, as well as twisting around my body, before I start stretching. If I don't walk to warm up, I do ankle circles right and left before stretching.
Part 2: Stretch!
The first part of the video shows gastrocnemius and soleus stretches. Those are the two big calf muscles. They share the Achilles tendon across the back of your ankle. If your issue is lack of flexibility, spend MORE time on this, and less on the strengthening exercises. Remember that it takes 1.5-2 minutes for the microfibers in your muscles to allow for a full stretch: they are there to make sure you don't tear and rip muscles.
Part 3: Massage your feet!
Use a massage ball or golf ball to get your plantar fasciae in gear. That's the layer that encases your muscles on the bottom of your foot. You can also massage your feet: we do this in Body Dynamics almost every week. Consider doing this also when you take your heels off after dancing, ladies!
Notes: keep your foot over the massage ball, so that the weight of your leg helps apply pressure to the sole.
Part 4: Stretchy bands are your friends!
The video shows the first of three parts of a leg and ankle stretch that we do in Body Dynamics. The rest of the stretch addresses other leg muscles, so I left it out for brevity. You will see it some other time!
Part 5: Towel exercise for foot strength
I spent a lot of grad school going to PT and getting my feet taped so I could dance as much as I needed to for my M.A. in Dance. I have learned a lot since then: in my 20s, I saw that as a necessary evil, but never really did my strengthening exercises. I just thought I would have weak ankles my entire life! My feet and ankles are much stronger now in my 50s, thanks to hard work!
Part 6: The alphabet, foot style
Fine muscle control in your feet will help you do fabulous adornos and have precision in your tango. Drawing the alphabet with your feet works the muscles you need for that. Have fun: do different alphabets, draw them upside down or backwards, write whole words--whatever works for you. I usually try to remember the Cyrillic and Arabic alphabets from my grad school studies.
Part 7: Lateral ankle strength stretchy band work
You need a friend or a heavy piece of furniture for this one. Loop a stretchy band under a chair, sofa, bed, or have a friend hold the other end. Make sure you get enough tension on the band to have a good workout, but don't overdo it. I almost always end up moving closer to the piece of furniture than I start.
The most important part here is to STABILIZE YOUR KNEE. You don't want to work the whole leg. The better you line up your knee, the more the ankle gets focused work.
Hope this is helpful!