Strong Feet Equals a Strong Body

The importance of strong feet and ankles for your physical performance

A tree without roots can’t stand. If you’re physically active, you need to take care of your feet. Your feet have so many muscles in them and are connected to the rest of your body. If you’ve ever tried reflexology, you’d understand how much your feet affect the rest of your body.

From my experience, when my feet and ankles are healthy I perform my best. There are many benefits to having strong feet and ankles.

Benefits of Strong Feet and Ankles

Better Balance: This one is pretty obvious. When your feet and ankles are strong, your balance will be better. This is important in every fitness activity that involves standing. When your balance is off, your other muscles will have to work even harder. This will make the activity you’re doing more difficult than necessary.

Injury Prevention: Playing any sport with weak feet and ankles is a recipe for disaster. In most sports you’re constantly changing directions and putting your ankles in awkward positions. When your feet and ankles are strong, these awkward positions won’t be an issue to you. I already mentioned how other parts of your body have to work even harder when your feet and ankles are weak. This can lead to overcompensation of those muscles. Overcompensation of muscles often lead to injuries. If you’ve ever tried to squat with a bad ankle you’d understand. It sucks!

Stronger Nervous System: There are several nerves in your feet that connect with the rest of your body, including your brain. When my feet have been strong and healthy, other parts of my body were too.

 

Feet and Ankle Strengthening Exercises

Tennis ball, wall throws: This is one of my favorite feet and ankle strengthening exercises. To do this exercise, stand on one leg and use your opposite hand to throw a tennis ball off a wall. Once the ball bounces off the wall, you’ll catch it with the same hand. Do this for 50 reps and then switch feet and hands.This will also make your nervous system more efficient because your brain is working hard to keep both sides of your body in sync while doing the exercise. You should do this barefoot.

Barefoot Walking: One of the easiest ways to strengthen your ankles and feet is by walking barefoot. Go to an open grassy field, take your shoes off, and start walking. You may get some funny looks but the benefits are worth it. Barefoot walking has helped me recover from a previous ankle injury. Not only will you feet and ankles get stronger and healthier but you’ll also feel better because all the nerves in your feet will be stimulated. I’ll go more in-depth on barefoot walking benefits in a future post.

Standing Yoga Poses: I’m a big fan of yoga for physical health. It’s something I do several times a week. Standing yoga poses like the Warrior 3 and the Tree Pose will definitely help with ankle and foot strength. If you want to make them even more challenging, try these poses with your eyes close. This actually makes your feet and ankles work harder to stabilize.

If you haven’t been taking care of your feet and ankles then you’re missing out on several performance benefits. Stronger feet and ankles could be the missing link to your training program that moves you significantly closer to your goals. Give some of these exercises a try and reap the benefits.

Photo by Gabriela Mendes from Pexels

Achieving Peak Performance

Have you ever had a workout in which everything was going smoothly or played basketball and you were making every shot? You didn’t have to think about your next movement. You didn’t feel any struggle. That’s how it’s like when you’re achieving peak performance or you’re in a flow state.

I’ve experienced this a number of times in life, and especially when doing some type of physical activity. It’s one of the best feelings. Once you get in that zone once, you’re always pursuing it. Based on my experience, the best way to get in this zone is not to pursue it. It just hits you like a wave and you can’t help but move with it.

You may not be an Olympic athlete but you can still achieve peak performance in your chosen activity. I don’t recommend chasing this zone but there are things you can do to increase your chances of getting there. I’m basing this on my personal experience and ideas shared by experts.

How To Get in The Zone

1. Challenge Yourself. Why would your mind and body push you to greatness if you’re doing something easy. You need to stretch yourself with an activity that challenges you. That activity also has to be something you’re familiar with. If you’ve never played the piano or even thought about playing, you probably won’t achieve peak performance the first time you try playing. This brings me to my next point.

2. Repetition is Key. If you want to throw a no-hitter, you’ll need to practice your pitches. If you want to deadlift 500 pounds, you’ll need to deadlift often. Your nervous system needs to be familiar with a skill or movement so you can perform your best at it. This might be one of the reasons Pavel Tsatsouline recommends greasing the groove .

In addition to physical practice, mental practice will help you achieve peak performance. I’ve experienced this first hand with my personal fitness goals. I like to see myself performing a movement even when I’m not at the gym. I try to picture the environment, the feel of the weight, the feel of my muscles, etc. Since I started doing this, my workouts and movements have been smoother. Mentally rehearsing my performance almost led to an accidental weight lifting PR.

3. Be Present. To perform at your absolute best, you have to be present in the moment. You have to let go of outcome. You have to forget anything that happened in the past. Your only focus is doing the activity. You just surrender to the moment and let go of all internal and external distractions. One thing that helps at the gym for example, is to take a few deep breaths in between my lifting sets.

I remember when my friends came to watch me play in a youth basketball league. In the first half of that game, I was making everything I threw up. I wasn’t thinking about them or any of the shots I was making. I was on fire! Once it was halftime, I stopped by to see my friends for a minute. They told me how great I was performing and even how many points I had. I made the mistake of letting that get to my head and thinking about my stats during halftime.

The 2nd half of the game didn’t go as smoothly. Everything felt forced and I was thinking a lot. Every missed shot got to me. It sucked but it was a valuable learning experience. When I reflect on all the times I performed my best in different areas of my life, one thing they all have in common is that I was being present. Meditation can help with this .

I hope this post aids you in your fitness journey. One of the greatest feelings in any physical activity you’re doing is to get in that flow state where you’re performing at your absolute best. Everyone who’s passionately pursuing a fitness goal should get to experience this wonderful feeling. You can also use these concepts in other areas of your life to perform your best.

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