One of the first exercises we teach our new clients is the calf stretch. And for good reason!
We've written blog posts in the past about the importance of taking care of the health of your feet (which you can find here, here, and here). But long story short, your feet are your foundation. Improving your foot mobility is a great first step (pun intended) toward better health.
Watch the video above to learn how to do the calf stretch.
To set up: In this exercise, we use a half foam roll. But if you don't have a half foam roll a rolled up towel will work great!
Take your shoes off, this exercise is best performed barefoot. Stand in front of your half foam roll (or towel) with your feet spaced pelvis width apart. Make sure your feet are aligned straight, like the cars on a tire. Look down and if they are angled outward take a minute to straighten them. Focus on maintaining this alignment throughout the exercise.
If you aren't sure about your balance, position yourself next to a chair, table, or countertop for support if needed.
To do the calf stretch: Shift your weight over to the side you aren't stretching. Place the ball of the foot on the side you are stretching on your foam roll. Focus on keeping your heel on the floor and your foot as relaxed as possible.
If you are feeling a stretch here, great! If not, slide the foot of the side that isn't being stretched forward until you feel a stretch. Hold this for about 30 seconds. This is not meant to be an aggressive stretch. If it's too intense or you are having difficulty maintaining your balance that's a signal to back off a little bit.
Repeat on the other side.
Tips: Focus on keeping your hips shifted over your heels all throughout this exercise. Avoid holding your breath or straining.
Standing in front of a mirror if possible the first few times you do this exercise will enhance your learning and improve your body awareness.
One of the best things about the calf stretch is that it's so easy to incorporate into your day without taking any extra time. Keep your foam roll or towel roll in areas that you tend to spend a lot of time to remind yourself to do this stretch. You can stretch your calves while you wash your dishes, brush your teeth, or watch your favorite TV shows. A half foam roll is also small enough to be kept in a desk drawer. So if you work at a desk a calf stretch can be a nice short movement break a few times per day.
As we discussed in the video, we love doing a quick movement assessment both before and after an exercise so you can see the impact it has. Before you do your calf stretch walk around barefoot and try standing on one leg for 30 seconds. Try it again after and see if you can detect a difference!
Give the calf stretch a try and let us know what you notice about your movement after.