Ankle Retraining Program

Once again my right calf had tightened to the point where my running was in jeopardy. Once again I headed to the physio for an acupuncture session. This was becoming a monthly routine: he sticks needles in my leg, it gets better for about three weeks, then it gets bad again, then I go see him again. It’s a monthly routine that I’m none too happy about!


Only this time, my regular physio was away and I got his offsider. Now I wasn’t pleased with this development. I protested to my wife that you can’t just let any old stranger stick needles in you – you need to build a relationship of trust first – acupuncture’s an intimate thing!

But my excuses were lame – and they were just excuses (I really do hate needles!) – and my calf was rooted and needed some attention – so I gave in and trudged down there, hoping he’d have the golden touch – hoping he couldn’t make my leg any worse than it already was!

Well, well. It turned out bloody awesome!

He wanted the background of my injury, and got my concerns that we were just treating the symptoms and not fixing the actual problem. And then he gave me the circus routine: he had me jogging on the spot, balancing on my tippy toes, standing on one leg, juggling clubs (well, I could have done that if he’d asked me – I’m a prodigious club-juggler!).

It turns out I can’t really stand on one leg at all – “Good thing I’ve got two”, I said. He didn’t laugh.

When he started to talk ‘slightly collapsed arch’ and then ‘orthotics’, I protested loudly (I put orthotics in the same basket as clairvoyants and Power Balance Bands). But to be honest, I’m desperate enough now that I probably would have got orthotics if he’d suggested them. But happily though, he thought a four week Ankle Retraining Program might do the trick. A FREE four week Ankle Retraining Program!!

He has a theory (at last, someone has a theory!) that the original calf muscle tear has altered my proprioception and my leg is no longer fully aware of where it is in space. So rather than just pulling up and down like the soleus is supposed to do, it is also making sideways movements (which calf muscles aren’t very good at). Consequently, it’s constantly getting re-aggravated and not begin given a chance to fully heal. So we’re going to strengthen the ankle up and retrain the proprioception (2nd time – still can’t spell that).

It sounds kinda flimsy now that I write it down, but hey, he’s trying to fix the problem. And I really want to fix this problem!

So 20 mins later I hobble out of the office, well needled, but also weighted down with exercise programs AND a wobble-board. Yes, my very own wobble-board (well, it’s a loaner but it looks so cool that it might never find it’s way back). The kids reckon it’s a flying saucer.


So, the Four Week Ankle Retraining Program is:

  • 2 x 30s bent leg calf stretch
  • 15 x 2s placing foot on a folded towel, rolling it to the outside, and holding for 2s. Do 2 sets of 15.
  • 1 min balancing on one leg. Progress to 2 mins. Then progress to eyes shut.
  • 2 x 2 mins on the wobble board, tipping side to side, front to back and diagonals (without the edges touching the ground)

I need to do this at least once a day. The whole program takes about 15 mins.

Fingers crossed I’m on the path to a full-recovery! Four months from now, while lounging in the finishers’ area at Ironman NZ, I’ll be laughing about the troublesome, old calf injury that just wouldn’t go away!

…(or I’ll be hobbling around on a pair of dodgy orthotics, compression socks pulled high, webbed in kinesio tape with my Power Balance Band on and my wallet empty, cursing the clever salesman that played me so well!)

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