Eye on Form - Funky Ankle to Tight Calf


Recently I had an interesting experience that reminded me why it’s good to have someone else checking your Pilates form. We instructors get so busy with clients at the studio, it’s not always easy to schedule time with each other!

So on this particular morning, I’d posted a link to an article about the effects of tight calves. Then later in the day, I was on the Cadillac, getting in a workout between clients. I was practicing Leg Presses*, a beginner-level exercise that involves laying on your back while flexing and pointing the ankles against a weighted bar. I looked up and was surprised to see my right ankle awkwardly bowed out to the side. As I shifted it into proper alignment, I was shocked to feel my right calf go guitar string tight! I allowed the ankle to bow out again, and the stretch sensation immediately went away. A few more repetitions with correct alignment and the stretch no longer felt so extreme.

Right ankle misalignment

Right ankle misalignment

That’s the thing with movement patterns and alignment sometimes. It’s not that I can’t correctly align my right ankle, or even that it’s difficult. But right now if I do that exercise without paying attention, my body shifts that joint to allow for a shortening that’s happened in my lower leg, and every time I practice it that way, I’m reinforcing a pattern. This little Caddy exercise called my attention to it, so now I can be aware of it in other exercises and gait patterns. I can’t fix something if I don’t know about it!

I know the next question – why did that shortening happen in the first place?? There can be lots of reasons: injury, misuse, disuse, sun spots, and so on. I used to have some funky foot/ankle issues that have long been ironed out with lots of movement training and bodywork, but those old patterns can crop up if I start spending too much time on the computer and couch. I also suspect my shoes might be a little too snug, based on being able to see the indentations from my laces in the photo above.

Some people might wonder why these little details even matter. This is no aesthetic trifle to me, because there are big debilitating bunions in my family, and I know that this is a pattern that could lead me in that direction. If I can alter a minor thing now and avoid a major thing down the road, that’s a pretty big deal to me.

So the moral of the story: It really, really helps to have somebody else checking your form!!! And when you’re on your own, at least practice with your eyes open :)

* Pilates-savvy readers will notice that the first photograph of me above depicts the advanced-level exercise The Guillotine. Unfortunately, the beginner-friendly Leg Presses are not a Pilates photo shoot fave, being fairly boring in appearance. Please forgive me for not throwing on the unitard and calling a photographer, I’m hoping this pic will give readers an idea of where Leg Presses might take place!

Carli Herrs