This blog provides encouragement to people who are recovering from illness and injury, losing fat and gaining muscle, and working towards fitness. This is my journey, and I write in this every day, which helps me. If it helps you, that would be wonderful.

The two steps to beginning muscular ankle rehabilitation


Although there may be people out there who have been as stupid as I've been, I doubt that there's many. I've spent the last fifteen years "babying" my right ankle. That is, I stayed off of it as much as possible, invested in two different types of braces (one of them is way cool - made of some space-age material), and just generally let the muscles there turn into mush. When I tried to use them, they would function for a little while, and then fail catastrophically. That is, I could walk, stand up, that sort of thing, but for days afterwards I'd be in agony, unable to do more than hobble around.

But I'm a smart boy, and I've been training my muscles, on and off, since the 1980s, and this month I've begun a systematic attack on my right ankle. And it will follow the same two steps that I use to train every other muscle, placing demands, and then allowing recovery.

One of the mistakes I've made in the past is a typical one that people do - I went from sitting around in front of my computer to trying to stay up on my feet walking for hours. And that's no way to build muscle, that's just an invitation to injury. You can think of muscle building as similar to developing a callous - a little bit and then recovery strengthens the tissue, too much too fast doesn't create a callous, it creates a blister. There's a big difference!

Luckily, I have what I need here. Instead of training for a mini-marathon, I'll be using my resistance bands, gently. I just want to do the flex and stretch of the muscles involved. This is a very, very beginning rehab technique, and unless your ankles are very weak, this won't do anything for you. For me, it's the best thing. My right ankle is so weak it's a miracle that I can even stand, and walk. And I'm always afraid of it folding in suddenly. Ouch!

The second step, which I've been neglecting for years, is doing what I can for recovery. It's difficult to leave your ankles alone, it's not as if you can sling one as you can with your wrist. Every time you stand up, your ankles work, and with every step you take, however gentle. I have a wheelchair but even using that doesn't help me as I paddle with my feet, and never learned how to power and steer it with my arms (maybe I should learn that!). Anyway, I'm using a trick that kinda got me into this situation - wearing my high tops. I wore high tops for years and years, and my ankles got weaker and weaker. Yes, they make a big difference to the amount of strain on my ankles when I stand and walk.

I will include these exercises every Friday in my Lower Leg Day workout. And then immediately after the workout I'll wear my high tops and begin recovery. That's the process, first one, and then the other. You have to do them both.


How to build up the muscles of your feet


Like most people, and especially guys, I wear shoes most of the time. Even as a kid I didn't go barefoot much. And although I've always liked to train my muscles, I've never paid much attention to the complex machinery of muscles, tendons, and ligaments that make up what I'm now calling "Lower Legs".

Nowadays Leg Day is split into two days - Upper Legs (quads and hamstrings) and Lower Legs (Calves and all of the muscles all of the way down to my toes). And one of things that I do on lower leg day is to take my shoes off.

I work from home, on my computer, so I really don't need to wear shoes. If I worked in an office and dressed the way I am in that pic up there, I probably would be politely asked to either put on some shoes or go work somewhere else. Wearing shoes is part of good social etiquette. And a gentleman like me simply doesn't go around showing his feet. It's simply not done, unless I'm at the pool, or the beach. And even then I'm in the water, not showing everyone my feet.

So while I know that I have feet, I really haven't look at them much in my entire life. And now that I am, it boggles my mind how complex the whole system is. I won't even try to learn all of the names of the bones, and how everything attaches. To me, it's just easier to compare my legs to my arms.

When I was about eleven, I learned to play piano, and did finger exercises. To this day, my fingers are very strong and coordinated. I don't plan on playing the piano with my feet, but your toes function in a similar way to your fingers. Those bony-looking things on the back of your hands, and feet, make the digits move. And if you follow the comparison, walking without making good use of your toes is like playing the piano with your fists. Yes, it's functional, but it's not very pleasant.

So take off your shoes and flex your feet. Pull your toes forwards and backwards, turn your ankle from one side to another. Feel the stretch and flex.

Muscles are muscles. From your biceps to your toes, they only do one thing: contract. One muscle pulls one way, one muscles pulls the other way. And all of the muscles in your body do better with regular use. When they're neglected, they "go on vacation" and want to stay there. So you have to insist!

Take your shoes off, that's the best way to start.

The best exercise for chest muscles - decline presses with dumbbells


If you're interested in building up the muscles of your chest, my recommendation is for you to do decline presses with dumbbells. And if you've never seen it, or even heard of it, it's not surprising. I just discovered it recently, and I've been training (well, on and off) since the 1980s.

Most gyms won't have a decline bench because of the many idiots out there who will hurt themselves, and sue them. But if you're not an idiot, you're in luck. And you have to have a weight bench that tips back (that's what "decline" means) and some dumbbells.

I've been doing this consistently for the past couple of years and I'm seeing some wonderful new growth of my chest muscles, in spite of my advanced years. I'd like to believe that age has made me wiser, and although it's not as easy to add muscle in your fifties, I'm doing it.

How to do decline presses with dumbbells

• Use dumbbells. Don't even think about hoisting a bar across your throat! If you don't have dumbbells, go get some. If it's a Saturday, hit some garage sales, where you'll find them for cheap. If you have the budget, go get some nice ones at a sporting goods store, like the kind I have. But it has to be dumbbells, don't use a barbell! No. No.

• Tilt the back of your weight bench back. No, you don't need to be standing on your head, you just need a little bit of a tilt. That tilt takes away the strain from your shoulders and focuses it where you want it to be, on your chest muscles.

• While staring at the ceiling, press up. The reality is that the movement isn't really a straight press, but to you, lying at that angle, it feels like it. Push up towards the ceiling. I like to start out ridiculously light, to completely warm up my body, and then go for my fifties, which I have to do by hoisting them up with both arms, and "self-spotting". That is, I try to press with just one arm, but the other arms stays nearby to help as needed.

So that's a decline press with dumbbells. If you've never done them, I guarantee you'll be surprised. And even if you've been training for a long new, new muscle will grow!