PUMPING IRONY: Up to My Ankles

A mysterious pain in my left ankle has had me scratching my head lately.

This, of course, is the sort of thing that happens when you reach a certain age — you go to bed feeling fine and wake up with a crick in your neck or a cramp in your thigh, and you spend the morning feeling vaguely troubled about your body’s treasonous behavior until something somewhere else on your anatomy shifts or stretches or otherwise compensates, and the pain disappears. I’ve been waiting for this to happen to the ligament/tendon/muscle on the top right-hand side of my left ankle for a week or so, but no such luck.

This is the ankle I broke on Christmas Day, 1987, when my older brother, Michael (who never really liked me), drove me out of bounds after I made a nice sideline catch at the first-down marker during our annual football game. The altercation snapped a couple of bones, which a surgeon later repaired with a couple of well-placed screws. But the ankle has never been particularly mobile since then, and this latest development has me wondering whether the entire mechanism is starting to break down.

This would be a bad thing, because my stiff, immobile ankles, I’ve recently learned, are uniquely positioned to sabotage my calves, knees, back and even my shoulders. That would explain my creaky left knee and tight left calf, I suppose.

Next up:

Back and shoulder troubles? Neck problems? Maybe it travels all the way up to seize my left brain, destroying my facility for detail while leaving me annoyingly creative.

So, I’ve been dorsiflexing like crazy lately, trying to stretch out my Achilles tendon and give my ankle some room to maneuver. It hasn’t relieved the pain yet, nor does it seem to have had much effect on my tight calf, but it does give me something to do while I wait for my tea to brew.

The next step, according to this video from trainer extraordinaire Bill Hartman, is to work the calf muscle and the fascia on the bottom of my foot with a tennis ball (if I can find one in the garage). All of these muscles and tissues are connected, it seems, so I can’t just dorsiflex my life away and expect anything to change.

I’ll try to remember that when I hit the gym tonight.

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