It's cold, really cold! Let's face it — we don't want to venture outside to exercise. Most of us are seeking solace (and fitness) in health clubs, personal training and at-home suites. Zumba, step and ballroom are popular classes to build your strength whilst having great fun, and will present their powers of motivation on the chilliest of days. Importantly, you will be far happier if your feet are happy. After all, they tend to take the lead!
Aerobics is forever-increasing in popularity and is a wonderful way to gain and maintain fitness levels. It involves quick lateral movements for extended periods of time, and therefore proper care is essential in preventing injury and in keeping the entire body fit.
Just as running shoes are crucial to running, proper shoes are crucial to an injury-free workout — and this is something I never knew! Start by selecting the right style for your chosen activity — cross trainers for aerobics, tennis shoes for doubles with the girls and running shoes for beating your personal best on the treadmill. If you can twist your gym shoe easily, it is too worn and no longer offers enough support. Shoes for aerobic activities should provide enough cushioning and shock absorption to compensate for excess pressure on the foot, which is far greater than the pressure of walking. They must also have good side-to-side (medial-lateral) stability. Impact forces from aerobics can reach up to six times the force of gravity, which is transmitted to each of the 26 bones in the foot — that’s crazy!
Aerobic shoes need an arch design that will compensate for the force of side-to-side motions, and sufficiently thick upper leather or strap support. This will provide forefoot stability and prevent slippage of the foot. Make sure shoes have a toe box (the part that covers the toes) high enough to prevent irritation of toes and nails. Who has the patience for irritation during exercise? Certainly not me! Tie your shoes securely, but not too tightly — there needs to be enough room in that toe box we talked about. It is also a good idea to tie your laces in a double knot to prevent accidental slippage during your routine. There's nothing that dampens the glamour of an exciting routine quite like a tumble!
Listen to your body — if you feel pain, for heaven’s sake stop! Don't attempt to exercise through it, or an acute injury may develop into a chronic or even permanent one. It’s an easy thing to do, but don’t forget the socks! Your feet have around 2.5 million sweat glands (I know), so ensure workout socks are made mostly of cotton and comfortable to wear — they shouldn’t be too thick, rough, tight or loose otherwise friction, abrasions and blisters can result.
Many injuries result from improper shoes (but we have that one sorted now, don’t we?), surfaces, routines and overuse of muscles. Hardwood floors, ideally with padded mats, are the best surfaces for aerobic-type exercise. If possible, start with a multi-impact class where you can work at a low-impact level until your body strengthens. Always participate in the warm up and cool down session (if you are late to a group session, do a warm up before you go in) and keep yourself adequately hydrated. Dehydration can lead to nausea, dizziness, muscle fatigue and cramping. These things can strip the joy from your workout, and to be honest, aint’ nobody got time for that!
Foot pain isn’t normal, so don't ignore it. A successful fitness regime will tone your muscles, build confidence and add a little magic to your day — similar to, but slightly more subtle than fairy dust. Listen to your feet when they speak to you; you’re the only one who understands them! They’ll move you across the health club floor, give you twinkle toes and propel you forward even further into the new year. As your foot muscles strengthen, you will strengthen, and you’ll realise that now your feet are sorted, things are quickly falling into place. You’ve put your heart and ‘sole’ into it, and you can’t wipe the smile off your feet!