Finding ways to cope mentally and physically during the current lockdown is vital. When we come to reflect on these difficult and extraordinary times in isolation, one positive may well be our increased focus on self-care and wellbeing. Lockdown has seen a fitness boom, with people finding inventive ways to exercise at home and use their one daily venture outside to do something active.
Without the daily commute, even those of us who are WFH have much more free time and one look at your Insta feed will show that practically everyone is channelling their inner athlete! Especially now this gorgeous spring has sprung, there’s no excuse not to turn your back garden into a dedicated fitness zone.
Whether you’re usually a regular gym-goer or have just discovered the joys of working out, the sudden change in exercise surroundings, routines and frequency can have an impact on your vital fitness tools – your feet.
Our team of health and fitness experts have come together to provide their top tips for keeping your feet healthy, injury free and primed for a peak fitness performance.
Expert podiatrist Dina Gohil (BSc (Hons), MChS, HCPC Reg.), Founder & MD of DG Podiatrist Ltd. says:
1. Stretch to success
For anyone training regularly, stretching your feet is crucial! The larger muscles and soft tissues of the leg are actually connected to the structures of your foot, making feet stretches just as essential as hamstring, glute and quadricep stretches. There are lots of benefits to keeping your feet supple and strong through routine stretching. In fact, studies have shown that those who stretch their feet regularly enjoy better flexibility, mobility, stronger feet, and fewer feet complaints than other people. Why not try and incorporate a daily barefoot stretching session into your exercise regime? This can help prevent injury.
Specific feet exercises and stretches help to develop the muscles and ligaments of the lower limb and naturally strengthen the arches of the foot. Additional benefits of feet stretching include greater flexor strength, ability to better spread the toes and a lower risk of toe deformities. This will be particularly beneficial to those taking on running, cycling weightlifting or yoga during lockdown.
Here are my top picks to keep your feet supple, flexible and pain-free. Each stretch should be carried out once a day, with at least 10 reps.
Calf raise with splayed foot:
– You may use the wall to keep your balance; remember to keep your feet shoulder width apart
– Ensure your toes are pointing outwards and then lift the heels up and down
– Benefits: increased ankle strength and stability, injury prevention, improved lower body performance
Single leg squat:
– You may want to use the wall to keep your balance; stand on one foot, bend your knee and push your hips back while checking your alignment
– Keep your back straight and shoulders back
– Continue to squat down until your hips are at 90 degrees with or lower than your knees while keeping your knees in line with your toes
– Benefits: increased lower body strength and stability which helps your knees and ankles
Towel and toes:
– Using a towel, squeeze your toes to lift the towel up slightly from the floor, then release
– When letting go of the towel, make sure to stretch your toes out as much as possible
– Benefits: Improved flexibility and strengthen in the foot tendons, improved stability and strength, injury prevention
2. Get your bearings straight
If you’re thinking about going barefoot for your back garden workout, I’m here to tell you that it can do wonders for your proprioception – that is, awareness of the position and movement of your body. Your feet touching the ground barefoot or in socks will send a clearer sensory input to your brain, allowing it to make a better connection with a specific movement. Furthermore, exercising barefoot can help restore natural walking patterns, e.g. gait, leading to improvements in balance and proprioception, which can in turn lead to pain relief. We all know that feeling of relief when we take off our shoes at the end of the day – so try to do this at other points throughout the day too, particularly now we are at home all day!
Many people will feel self-conscious about getting their feet out, even in the back garden. In fact, according to recent data, 34% of us hate our feet while a further 14% feel their feet would be too ‘ugly’ to expose during sports like yoga or Pilates. Feeling good in your feet will help you concentrate on working out effectively, so why not give Footner Exfoliating Socks a go? If you can’t get out to see a podiatrist during lockdown, they are a great alternative. Pop them on for 60 minutes, and then any hard, dead or callused skin will start to actually peel off your feet within 7-10 days, revealing a layer of soft, smooth and rejuvenated skin underneath.
Personal Trainer & Strength and Conditioning expert James Harrison says:
3. Recover like a champion
Whether you are a seasoned runner or a newbie to this high intensity workout, correct recovery is always essential to help your feet repair and to avoid injury. As tempting as it may be to collapse on the sofa after completing a 5 or 10K, it’s important to keep the blood flow going around your legs. So, you’ve got to keep moving to help your circulation. Stretching your hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps and feet is a great way to do this. When you do stop for your well-earned sit down, it’s best to elevate the feet to make sure the blood doesn’t pool in the lower half of your body.
Contrasting hot and cold showers can be really effective in promoting recovery – and if you’re really brave you could try an ice-cold bath! Changing temperatures in this way causes blood vessels to vasodilate and vasoconstrict (open and close up) which can promote recovery, flush waste product from the legs and help reduce any swelling.
4. Put your feet first
As you start to incorporate sprint intervals or a high stamina session into your daily lockdown routine, you’ll start to realise that your feet can take an absolute battering after a run! For example, pounding the pavement can really take it out on your feet. If you do start experiencing issues like extremely dry skin or cracked heels after running, don’t ignore your feet’s cry for some TLC. CCS Foot Care Cream is popular among runners for eliminating these problems – apply this Swedish formula twice a day and see a visible improvement within 7 days.
If you do start to notice any swelling around the foot after running, take some rest days while you seek the advice of your GP or podiatrist.
Annette Thomas, Pilates Instructor http://annettethomas.co.uk/ says:
5. Prime your feet with Pilates
The benefits of mindful exercises such as Pilates are well-known, helping to develop breathing and relaxation techniques as well as improving posture, strength and flexibility. If you’re feeling worried about the lockdown, Pilates can help you to de-stress as well as positively impacting your physical health. Pilates is usually done barefoot so that your foot and ankle movements are unrestricted and so your instructor can assess whether you have the right foot alignment and posture. Many instructors are moving their classes online, so you can still join in from the comfort of your own home to learn how to keep your feet supple and strong.