After both Ari and Laurie pointed out this week that my left knee was bending inwards again, I reviewed some exercises to create more arch in my foot. One particular idea that I found was that of the “short foot,” developed by a Czechoslovakian researcher, Vladimir Janda. Here’s a video:
After watching this and reading a few more websites, I was immediately captivated by the idea that I could both improve my alignment and strengthen my foot with these fairly simple exercises. So I’ve been doing them every chance I get. You can do these anywhere, and they fit beautifully with the rhythms of the post-Valentine’s Day chant: “He loves me, he loves me not.”
A few of the websites describe these as the “Kegel exercises of the foot.” Pretty funny.
Here’s a website with a whole set of progressive exercises. It’s fun to watch all these guys doing squats and deadlifts while concentrating on making their feet short. I’ll content myself with simply sitting, standing, and skating for now.
So last night I decided that I would try to think about the “short foot” while skating. Instead of concentrating mostly on my hip positions as I have been, I worked on shortening my foot without scrunching up my toes (which is surprisingly difficult). This, combined with trying to keep my ankle bend and knee position aligned, made an immediate difference for the better.
Although the idea is to have a “short foot,” I actually feel like I have more blade on the ice when I do this, especially on the left side. I feel as though I can feel more of the rock on the blade too. And it is easier to get my left hip underneath me. Win, win, win!
And the best thing was that I did nearly the entire session without feeling like my left foot was getting tired or sore. There’s an easy mechanical reason for this: the arch of the foot acts like a kind of upside-down leaf spring (the kind used on car suspensions). Without it, the rest of the foot gets quite a beating.
Hopefully several thousand repetitions of these (“he loves me, he loves me not”) will give me a new spring in my step (and my stroke!)