How do I get more pliable ankles?

I have never been very flexible to begin with, but now I am a runner trying to become a triathlete. The problem is my ankles don't bend and they inhibit proper swimming form. I stretch with little success. Are there any supplements, nutrition tricks or PT treatments or other ideas that might help me? - Dennis

Dear Dennis,
What a great question you haveI am going to address the part about supplements and nutrition first. Of course for all athletes nutrition is key to performance. It is imperative that we have a well balanced diet in order to perform up to our abilities. As far as supplements/nutrition that will assist with improved mobility of your joints, I am going to suggest you ask your physician or nutritionist. They will be able to help you with any additions needed to your diet. One thing you do need to make sure you are doing is staying hydrated. A dehydrated muscle is not as flexible and this will inhibit your ability to stretch. Remember if you wait to drink water or sports drinks when you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated.

There are a lot of other potential reasons why you are not successful with your present stretching program. Lengthening the muscle does take some patience and time. Think of the muscle as a rubber band. When you stretch a rubber band, it goes back to its original shape. Over time the rubber bands shape changes and this is what happens with your muscles. Over time the muscle will change in length and become more flexible. Other things to think about when stretching: make sure you are holding stretch for at least 20 seconds, you are stretching enough through the week, and you warm up first before stretching. By making sure you warm up first this increases blood flow to the muscles and they become more supple.

If the above does not work you may want to contact your physician and get into physical therapy. You may not be doing the correct stretches for that area or you may need to modify some of the stretches. You also may have some joint restrictions that are limiting the amount of stretching you are able to do. This can be addressed by a physical therapist. The physical therapist can also look to see if another joint is limiting how much stretching you are able to get at the ankle. A good option would be to make it into one of the Runners Clinics at Probility Physical Therapy. A physical therapist can do an assessment and give you suggestions on proper route to take. The clinics are the first and third Thursday of every month at our State Street clinic.

Good luck with your training and happy stretching.

Beth Remke, MPT
Physical Therapist
Probility Physical Therapy
2058 South State Street Suite #500
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

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