Barbara had a curious observation today.
I was standing in the dark stairwell to my basement and Barbara (my astonishing Body Dynamics trainer) was on my iPad, propped on the floor but angled up so she could watch me do calf raises.
Which I was doing wrong.
Now, I ask you: If you stand on the stairs with your heels hanging over the edge, and then you raise up until you’re on your toes, is there ANY WAY to accomplish that without using your calf muscles?
Well, as it happens—yes. You can get up on your toes on the strength of your foot muscles alone, and your calves will come along happily for the ride, relaxed and blissed and enjoying the view from two or three inches higher in the stairwell. They will NOT break a sweat. They won’t even pretend to try. I mean, my calves are pure-damn freeloaders. I had no idea.
Barbara, from her peculiar position as if lying on the basement floor, kept saying “Are you leaning forward? It looks like you’re leaning forward.”
“Nope,” I said, in complete confidence, because I wasn’t leaning at all. And she was looking at my backside, anyway. How could she possibly see if I was leaning forward or not?
I’d forgotten. It’s Barbara. She has a sense that the rest of us don’t have. (It’s x-ray vision, or something.) “Okay,” she said. “Do twenty of those in a row.” So I did. No problem. Calf raises—what a nice change from pulling up the “headlights” (pelvic bone) with my abdominals, or trying to find my glutes. Up and down I went in the stairwell, without going up or down the stairs, which was nice. La-di-dah. Having a lovely time.
“Okay,” said Barbara when I was done. “What’s tired?”
“Um, my feet.”
“I knew it. You’re leaning forward.”
“I’m really not.”
Turns out that if you do a calf raise by using your calves (crazy old world), you go pretty much straight up. But if you do them with your feet, your hips rock forward a little. I couldn’t even feel it, but I was doing it.
“We’ll strengthen your calves,” Barbara said. Great. Another muscle group in need of boot camp. And then she made her curious observation:
“All of my clients who tend to go barefoot have these really nice, strong feet and weak calves.”
What?? I came off the stairs with a thud. Really?
We talked about it. Do people with strong feet muscles tend to like to go barefoot? Or does the act of going barefoot build strong foot muscles?
“Chicken or the egg,” was Barbara’s assessment. “The two feed off each other. Doesn’t matter. You’re going to have strong feet and strong calves.”
“But I don’t have to put on shoes, do I?” (Exercise is one thing—but wearing shoes unnecessarily is a line I simply will not cross. Girl’s got to have some standards.)
Had you thought about it? If you’re basically a barefoot person, is that why you have strong feet? If you have powerful calves, do you often go barefoot? It’s sort of interesting, isn’t it?