I’ve been dealing with tight calves for as long as I’ve been running, but I’ve been dealing with one particularly tight calf for what feels like forever but is in fact about 6-8 months. My massage therapist works to loosen it as best she can every month and I go right back to tightening it again with training. My bike fit improved some of the calf issues but not all.
Lately though (OK, again…for a few months – yes I can spell D-E-N-I-A-L) it’s just tight all the time. When I started my bike test last month, it tightened up immediately during warmup. When I start a run, I feel it within the first 10 minutes. It’s not pain, just a very very tight muscle that I can clearly tell isn’t giving me 100%. I’ve resorted to wearing a calf sleeve for bikes and runs to try to hold it all together.
And so I finally decided enough was enough – no more putting my head in the sand and waiting for an injury - and scheduled an appointment with my ART doctor for the first time since Ironman training in 2009. (In case you were wondering, what is ART?) Rest week seemed like a perfect time to tackle this and so I saw him yesterday.
I explained the situation and we did some functional tests to see where the cause was – everything down the line in your body interacts and the area the issue manifests in may not even be the true problem! Some really clumsy squats on my part indicated hip flexors or ankles (or both), and shifting to doing those squats on a small “ramp” that flexed my ankes turned them into beautiful squats – bingo, culprit found.
Basically my ankles have reverted lately into super-tight mode (I’ve even thought about it recently and how oddly tight they felt), my inner calf muscles are weak (making the tightness of my outer calf muscles an even bigger danger), and my hip flexors are weak.
Now what I love about seeing Dr B is he isn’t just about having me come in for endless appointments to loosen me up, he wants to give me the tools to fix myself by addressing the weak areas in my kinetic chain. He did some work to loosen up the irritating calf (ow) and the rock-tight ankles (ow ow) and the bottoms of my feet which were pulling even worse on the ankles (ow ow ow) and finally the hip flexor on the side that was compensating for the calf (quadruple whammy OW). And then he taught me some new strength moves and stretches that I need to do daily – stuff to strengthen my hip flexors and inner calves and to stretch and stretch my ankles – I went home and did them all last night.
Today I set out for a nice easy-paced hour run. My legs felt light and springy – so THAT’S what range of motion in my calves and ankles feels like, I had forgotten! I didn’t feel any tightening in my calf until late in the run and immediately afterwards I went through all my stretching moves again. The true test will be next week when the intensity and volume are back up again - if things aren’t quite right yet I can go back for some more ART on the tight spots to keep working them loose. However I’m feeling quite optimistic about finding the problems early – and before I injured anything – so I can gain greater balance in my muscles now and reap the benefits come race time.
And if you’re in the south Bay Area and looking for someone who will give you a good assessment and fix you up without telling you to stop doing your crazy endurance sports…check out the folks at Premiere Spine & Sport – they rock!
PS. Now that my legs are feeling groovy again…is rest week over yet? Is it? Is it? Can I go hard again now? What about now? Are we there yet?