Remember last fall when I tried a couple of cardio dance classes like Cize and Soca AFRO-bics? And how, despite being totally uncoordinated, I didn’t fall on my face and actually had fun (and suggested that everyone should take a cardio dance class)?
Well, last week I took my own advice and went to new-to-me studio AKT in Motion. The AK stands for Anna Kaiser, superstar trainer to the likes of Kelly Ripa and Sarah Jessica Parker.
The class combines dance moves with strength and core work, which was super fun and left me drenched in sweat. The other thing I was left with? Sore, tight and cranky calves from all the jumping around.
I can’t blame the class entirely (or really at all). Recently, I’ve been slacking on my self-myofascial release and yoga to loosen tight calves. I’ve been neglecting this part of my self-care routine because I’ve taken for granted that my body “feels” good right now.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years is that nothing good comes from having sore and cranky calves. See plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonosis. Tight calves (and Achilles) can be the culprit behind many lower body aches, pains and injuries. While it might not be the only cause, it can definitely be a contributing factor.
To keep my calves happy and healthy, I regularly use these four tools. They are essential to loosen tight calves.
1. Foam roller
My favorite is the Rumble Roller. Yes it looks scary and yes it looks like a torture device but I find that need something a little more aggressive to work out the kinks in my muscles and fascia. The other foam roller I like is the GRID from TriggerPoint Therapy which has a rigid hollow core so the foam roller doesn’t get droopy with use.
2. Yoga Tune Up balls
Have a mentioned before how much I adore my Yoga Tune-Up balls? They allow me to work a little deeper and in a more precise way than the foam roller to loosen tight calves. Plus, I can use these for trigger point release. Roll your calves on the floor or prop your leg up on a yoga block. P.S. You should also get Jill Miller’s book Roll Model, which is an incredible resource for improving your mobility.
3. Dynamic Calf Stretch
Watch this great video from Coach Jess. This is not your traditional calf stretch that you used to do before soccer practice. It’s a dynamic stretch that takes you through a range of movement that your body and muscle uses while running. I do these before (and after when I remember) every run.
4. Compression Socks
When my calves start to feel a bit sore, I put on a pair of compression socks or calf sleeves. I find that it gives me a little bit more support when I run and holds everything together just a little bit more. My favorite compression socks/sleeves are from Zensah.
And then every once in a while, I book a professional massage. I find this helps work through all the kinks and gives me a total reset. And let’s be real – the hour or so of quiet is worth is in and of itself. I wish I could do it more!
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