So far we have explored 2 stretches for the neck, 2 stretches for the mid-body (hip rotators and flexors), and 1 stretch for the lower leg. SO that leads me to decide that todays stretch should return to the lower legs! The first stretch we did for the lower legs was a calf stretch (week 2) so this stretch will focus on the muscles through the shin (anterior lower leg or Tibialis Anterior) with a variation for the side muscles (lateral lower leg or Peroneals).
If you have ever tried to stretch these muscles yourself you may have found it difficult to achieve what you felt was a good stretch, or even wondered why you bothered ... "...the shin is mostly bone isn't it???..." This stretch will show you just how easy and safe it is to stretch the front and side of your lower legs, and we all know that thorough stretching is part of the answer to healthy, pain free living. It might also interest you to know that if you are someone who does a lot of running as part of your fitness regime, good thorough stretching to your entire lower legs can help prevent the incidence of stress fracture!
Position yourself kneeling on both knees with your lower legs side by side directly behind you. You may want to put a folded towel or soft cushion under your knees for comfort, but do not use anything too thick or bulky because it will affect your balance later in the stretch. Your ankles should be extended so that the top of your foot (or the Dorsum of your foot) is flat on the floor and your heels (or Calcaneus bones) are pointing directly up. To perform the stretch simply sit back onto your heels.
As there is not much to this stretch, the focus of your breathing is not as important as in other stretches where you would take the breath in to prepare and then exhale as you stretch. With this stretch you can simply breathe as normal, just remember to keep breathing!
Again, this stretch is a little different from other stretches in so far as you can hold it as long as you like really. You should hold it for at least the recommended 15-20 seconds, but if you wanted to you could sit like this for 5-10 minutes at a time. Just be sure to stretch the calf muscles afterwards!
Variation to effect the lateral muscles (Peroneals):
After you have stretched the Tibialis Anterior by sitting directly back on your heels, it is very simple to adjust your stretch to effect your Peroneal muscles as well. All you need to do is rise up onto your knees again and drop your ankles outwards so that the upper, outer side of your foot is now in contact with the floor and then simply sit down again. Your buttocks should now be in contact with the inside of your feet where the arch is. Again, this should be comfortable enough to sit for 5-10 minutes at a time. It is important to remember that with this variation you only need to drop your heels outwards. Do not physically move your ankles and feet outwards so that your buttocks rests in contact with the floor. This could cause hyperflexion in the knees and possible injury over time.
Always remember to relax into your stretches - don't fight against the stretch (it may cause more harm than good), and always do each stretch 3 times, at least twice each day.
This stretch has not been taken from any specific source, but some reference can be made to "The Anatomy of Stretching" by B.Walker - pp112.