It’s wedding season! Which means that my husband and I drove 19 hours across the country on Friday to be able to share a special weekend with two fellow physical therapists and graduates of Pacific University, Claire and Ernesto, who got married on Saturday. These two are amazing. They are hilarious, kind, and they are the type of people you just instantly feel good being around. Their wedding was pretty incredible too. The location was gorgeous, I cried and laughed in the perfect ratio during the ceremony, and the tacos for dinner were heavenly. And instead of a champagne toast, the couple opted for tequila shots which I thought was a perfect touch. But more than all of that, the friends and family of the couple were all so welcoming and fun, and it was a bonus that a huge portion of guests were physical therapists I went to school with so it was a nice little reunion.
We even got to meet some babies that have joined our crew in the last few years!
I just love weddings in general. So much happiness, food, and dancing.. it’s perfect. I also love the chance to dress up at weddings. I’m a pretty casual person day to day, most often rocking yoga pants and a messy bun, so the chance to put on a dress and let my hair down is nice every now and then.
And then there are the heels. If you’ve ever put on heels yourself, you know that they are not always the most comfortable. And as a physical therapist, I know fully well that they are not great for your body. BUT, everything in moderation, and I find it fun to throw on some cute shoes and stand several inches taller from time to time. If you’re like me and are too stubborn to choose sensible shoes for special occasions, it’s at least a good idea to have some strategies to make amends to your body when you wake up a little sore after dancing the night away on stilts you’re not used to.
One of the many ways heels alter your alignment and body position is that they keep your calf muscles and Achilles tendon in a shortened position, which can cause tightness in these areas. It should feel really good to give this area some attention once you’re back to your flat, supportive shoes.
Let’s start with some stretches. Your calf muscle is actually made up of two layers. The deeper layer is called your soleus and the more superficial layer is called your gastrocnemius. These muscles both join into your Achilles tendon and ultimately attach to your heel bone. But, because they are two distinct muscles, there are two different stretches to most effectively target each one.
First, for your gastrocnemius, start in a slightly lunged position with your back leg (the leg you are stretching) completely straight, your heel pressing to the ground, and your toes pointing straight forward. You should feel the stretch in your calf area, more up towards your knee. Then, to stretch your soleus, simply bring your back foot forward a little bit and bend your knee until you feel a stretch. Continue to make sure your heel stays down to the ground and your toes point forward. You’ll still feel the stretch in the back of your lower leg but it should be a little bit lower towards the ankle compared to the first stretch. Make sure to do both legs, and as a general rule you can perform each version of the stretch 2-3 times, holding for about 30 seconds each time.
If you are still feeling tight in your calf muscles and/or feet, you can also do some self massage/release with something like a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, or foam roller. In my case, I’m borrowing my dogs’ ball because that’s all I brought with me on this trip. Basically, just put the ball under your calf or under your foot and roll on it. Stay away from bony areas and the soft spot behind your knee, but otherwise feel free to work your way up, down, in, and out on the muscle, working any tight areas out. If a spot feels particularly tight, maybe spend a little bit of extra time there. Remember to breathe and try to relax the muscle you are rolling to get the best benefits. It is not necessarily comfortable as you are doing this, but it can feel much more loose once you are done. If you want a little extra out of your rolling, you can put your opposite leg over the top for added pressure or experiment with moving your ankle while you keep force on a sore spot in the calf.
Well, I’m gonna run for now (which would have been impossible in my heels on Saturday!) Congratulations to all of the 2018 lovebirds out there, and good luck to all of you ladies braving less than practical footwear!