One of my all-time least favorite pet peeves as a runner is sore calves.
I ruptured my plantaris tendon when I was in college back in 1998.
The plantaris muscle lies behind the knee and runs into the plantaris tendon and lies beneath the calf muscle (also called the gastrocnemius muscle).
I am again, out for a couple more weeks (by choice) as I was out for a run two days ago and felt a slight shooting pain go up the back of my calf.
I immediately knew what it was.
I work in a hospital and am surrounded by and work with Physicians, Physical Therapists and Nurses so at least my environment is a good fit for me when little nags pop up like this.
There isn't much you can do when these things occur but sit and wait.
Time heals, after 23 years of running I have learned my lesson in trying to train through these types of issues.
Not worth it!
What causes sore calves?
Well, in my case I am almost certain I know worn out shoes that should have been swapped out a couple months ago was the cause, starting back into training faster then you should can sometimes also cause issues as well.
We all need time off but sometimes our muscles and tendons are weakened when we take time away from the sport and jump back into training too quickly.
You really have to baby yourself early on, allow the body to adapt and adjust to the daily pounding again.
Don't be in a rush and if at all possible get on softer surfaces such as grass, dirt roads or all-weather walking or running paths.
The University of Louisville here in Louisville, Kentucky has an outstanding 800m walking and running path around their track and field stadium.
Great place to get off the hard surfaces and run or do intervals on.
Shoes should be swapped out every 200-500 miles.
Be wary of going too much further as you could cause something like this to occur (muscle strain) from poor cushioning and biomechanics.
I was long overdue and fortunately for me I have some downtime now to reflect and am not going to be out of the sport for a few months with a calf surgery because I didn't listen to what my body was saying and continue to train.
A couple weeks off is better then a few months and additional months in rehabilitation.
How To Treat Sore Calves
If you have never heard of the acronym R.I.C.E. before, it is your best bet to treat overworked and sore calves.
Most runners have but here is an overview.
R – REST, time off will allow the muscle to repair and heal, nothing can take the place of this and also is the most difficult for runners who have a hard time not running.
As you get older you'll realize the importance of not pushing it.
Remember, delayed gratification.
All successes have dealt with setbacks.
Keep in mind Winston Churchills' quote
Success is going from failure to failure and not losing enthusiasm
Do you want to risk an injury that puts you out for a few months because you went out and continued to train through it or a week or two off to relax, heal and bypass that headache altogether?
Remain Calm Under Trials
Easy decision right?
I – Ice, icing sore calves helps to lower swelling but really should only be used 24 to 48 hours after an injury occurs.
I don't necessarily think this is a major injury as it is easily treatable provided I follow my own advice I am sharing with you and, indeed, take two weeks off altogether.
Nothing beats complete rest.
The body will heal itself and although icing is beneficial for sore muscles be weary of how often you do it.
It won't hurt you, but at the same time, icing and stretching have been so engraved into our mindset that many runners over think this process.
Several days after having bodily aches it is best to let the body do what it was designed to do and heal on its own.
Do ice in the early stages for sure but don't get carried away is all I am saying.
Does that make sense?
If you are going to ice due to inflammation I would never recommend applying ice directly to your skin to guard yourself against burning.
If you are going to, do is sparingly.
Be Patient When Injured
Apply ice to a small towel or use a bag of frozen vegetables but do your best to have something covering your skin if at all possible.
The only time I ever apply ice directly to any area of my body is when I have dealt with patellar tendinitis or other knee soreness.
If I wrote on that particular setback I would be writing here for the next few months.
I great technique I use to ice areas for short periods of time is by taking stirofoam cups and filling them up with water, freezing them and then unraveling the sides of the cup as it melts and use it to massage sore knees.
The patellar tendon, much like achilles tendinitis are common injuries many runners deal with where icing can really help in alleviating some of the swelling and inflammation.
These hiccups in training can easily be treated if you take the time to listen and not ignore what your body is telling you.
C –Compression, I highly recommend the skins compression sock as I use these things religiously in training and in recovery from little nags along the way to gaining fitness.
Time Will Heal All Wounds
It helps minimize muscular vibration and keeps the muscle balanced and stable while your training.
Runners don't always know about this but blood flow is so important to endurance athletes athletic performance, as is cellular health.
Our cells rely heavily on oxygen and keeping oxygenated blood flow to our muscles is key to our success as athletes.
If you are ever feeling fatigued or injured don't overlook the importance of iron and glutathione.
We use about 20mg of iron each day to produce healthy red blood cells.
Every cell in the body, trillions I might add, produce glutathione.
What happens when we run low?
Your cells oxygen transport is diminished as is the energy production process (called ATP) greatly reduced.
There has to be a balance within the body and if you have ever dealt with fatigue or complete muscle shut down in a longer race like the 10K to marathon distance you know exactly what I am talking about.
Consider An Antioxidant Few Know Of
Glutathione is an antioxidant produced by our cells (called the ‘master' antioxidant also known as the ‘miracle' molecule within the body) that is crucial for life, without it we would not even survive.
There are alternatives to help you heal and guard yourself against inflammation and stunted cell growth that is absolutely crucial for muscle and cellular health.
Please review this as it could save you a lot of heartache that many runners will experience and not fully understand.
Iron and glutathione are major key players in healing, reducing inflammation, removing free radicals and toxins from the body.
The reason why wearing compression socks is that they keep the muscles from vibrating while running, slowing the fatigue we all feel from lactic acid build up and beating up our legs, joints and tendons on the roads and track.
Can you imagine the cellular and muscular trauma we put our body's through when with every foot strike to the ground we are placing 2 to 5 times our body weight?
Have You Checked Your Iron?
You lose iron from sweating and foot strike hemolysis (when red blood cells in the feet burst from running).
Women lose it in menstrual bleeding and in many cases are even more susceptible to iron deficiency then men.
It is these very same areas of the body that certainly less us know when they aren't functioning correctly as in with sore calves.
What compression gear does it help increase veinous return of deoxygenated blood back to the heart.
It caused the walls of arteries within your body to dilate thus creating increase blood flow through them.
Studies have show that arterial blood flow increases by as much as 40% during athletic activity and 30% during recovery so don't take compression lightly.
If you have any form of injury you will want to ensure compression is in your mental rolex.
E – Elevate, elevating the leg allows for blood to travel away from the troubled area of the body allowing for reduced swelling and inflammation.
A Few Closing Points
Don't be in a rush to get back into training.
The longer you are in the sport the more you realize that at the end of the day, it truly isn't worth running through an injury.
Your athletic career will not end with a few weeks off, even a year if it is a major injury like an achilles surgery.
It may take a long time to heal but won't end a distance runner's career in most cases.
You just have to be patient and allow the body to do what God created it to do, heal.
The body heals on its time, not when we want it to be ready for us to go back out and tackle long runs and track workouts.
Always consider the alternative.
If you notice your calf muscles are continuing to become more painful where can barely walk then you had better listen to what your body is telling you and back off.
A couple weeks off or risk a ruptured calf muscle and be out for a few months or worse yet, deal with a surgery on account of impatience.
It really is that simple.
It isn't always simple to pull back the reins and not train, that is difficult, especially when you are training to get back into shape to battle a tough goal you have in mind.
Consider taking a few epsom salt baths.
Epsom salt has been used for centuries to help aid and recover sore muscles, strains and soreness.
It is comprised mainly of magnesium which is absorbed into the body via the skin and helps flush out lactic acid within muscle tissue.
In addition, it also has been shown to help nerve and muscle function within the body again coming to the the reduce for sore calf muscles and other nagging injuries we face.
Be patient with your training.
We place an enormous demand on our bodies with the activity we choose to participate in.
This is why careful attention must go into all aspects of training, not just the physical work.
Proper sleep, hydration, good nutrition and peace of mind are crucial for success.
It is not stressing over the things we cannot control.
You have no power over what Mother Nature decides to give you on any given day so don't worry about it.
If bad weathers occurs during training or racing, guess what, someone, somewhere is experiencing it as well and very well could be handling a lot better then you and I.
Be thankful for your health.
A small injury or setback like sore calves is a very small problem in a world with real problems that people are facing.
If you have your health, friends and family that love you and a team which you have here at rundreamachieve, then you are a success.
Injuries are temporary, they don't end distance runners careers (most of the time).
Muscle soreness and other minor aches and pains such as sore calves can be easily treated.
Remember, success in this sport is a process, not the event the media and world gets to see.
The world sees the great performance.
What they don't see is three knee surgeries, a ruptured plantaris tendon, multiple issues with a achilles tendinitis, piriformis syndrome, countless bouts patellar tendinitis and plantar fasciatis, shin splints.
The process demands you be patient, vigilant and never losing your cool.
It asks of the athlete
How badly do you want it?
Always stay in control of these things and you will always have peace of mind that what you are doing is more then just a time or performance to gloat about, but the knowledge that you were patient enough to see yourself through the storm and get across the finish line in record time.