Calf injury (sort of) question (Read 580 times)

    This happened to me yesterday in a four-mile race, happened to me one other time in a 5K in February 2011.


    Note to start that I have chronically sore Achilles, although they're getting generally better. My relaxed ankle flexibility is my biggest running form problem, I think.


    So yesterday, went through the mile in 7:00, pushing it for me, but that's where I want to be. (Right now I'm a 22:00 5K guy, but want to be much faster.)


    About 1 1/4 -- and I had about six steps warning, could feel it coming -- I got an excruciating sharp pain in my left calf, like I'd been shot. Scary as hell. Running through my mind in about three seconds included that I had torn my Achilles.


    So I yelled, stepped off the side of the road (couple of people asked if I was OK) and limped about 10 steps. Pain was already subsiding. Started to jog, and it was a little sore, but OK. So started to run/hobble a few steps to see if I could get going, and I did. To cut through all the fits and starts -- mostly involving fear something else was going on -- I ran an 8-minute mile counting the delay, then a couple of 7:30s. So wound up running 30:30, much slower than I wanted, but finishing OK.


    Calf is sore today, but I ran 4 easy miles.


    So the only thing I can think of is there was a muscle fiber or fibers in there, it snapped, that was the pain and the residual soreness, but now I'm done with it. So two things:


    1) Does that theory make sense?


    2) Anybody with "short calves/Achilles" have any kind of way to make that better. I use a roller, try to stretch after I run, etc. Does regular sports massage help? Any other magic solutions somebody has found?


    Sorry for what is essentially a long question, just curious if anybody knows what I'm talking about.

      I'm not sure what the calf pain was, but one of the best exercises for Achilles issues is eccentric raises/drops: click here.  I try to do ten or so of them a couple times a day when I'm walking up the stairs anyway to keep it part of my routine.  I haven't had Achilles problems, but I do them because I don't want to.  I'm told they can (given significant time) make a whole work of difference.


      I also know some people recommend a slow, gradual switch to lower-drop, more minimal shoes to gradually lengthen the Achilles.  I'm probably a bad person to give advice on that--I started running in minimal shoes.  (That said, it looks like you run in Newtons or Brooks that are at least low-heeled, d'oh.)

      "When a person trains once, nothing happens. When a person forces himself to do a thing a hundred or a thousand times, then he certainly has developed in more ways than physical. Is it raining? That doesn't matter. Am I tired? That doesn't matter, either. Then willpower will be no problem." 
      Emil Zatopek

        Yeah, I'm heavily into Newtons, and Chi too. The ankle flexibility thing has always been a key for me.


        Eccentric calf raises definitely help, but been back to some trouble recently, not sure why.

          Running Times has a stretch they call "burrito Achilles/calf stretch" this month for it, too.  It's the old standard bent-knee calf stretch...but roll up a towel like a burrito and put if under the big toe of the foot you're stretching.  They recommend holding for three minutes per side and note if may take 12 weeks to lengthen soft tissue. 


          I don't know how well the stretch works, but it FEELS awesome. Smile

          "When a person trains once, nothing happens. When a person forces himself to do a thing a hundred or a thousand times, then he certainly has developed in more ways than physical. Is it raining? That doesn't matter. Am I tired? That doesn't matter, either. Then willpower will be no problem." 
          Emil Zatopek

            Well, I only got 19 days before my big race of spring, but that sounds like a great stretch and can't hurt to do it as much as I can, so thanks much.


              I have pretty much same times and the EXACT problem you have. I have just got a thorough analysis at a running retreat and here is what I found out. Most likely you have knots in your legs and you (and I) have to be aggressive In getting them out with aggressive massage and stretching. Plus aggressive calf stretching (both dynamic and static on warmed up muscles has to be routine. I overstrude and I was able to correct this by running more erect and not leaning to far forward. I have severe hip strength issues and need to work on strength. Gait analysis also indicated severe pronatation with feet rolling inwards dramatically. They rarely recommend custom orthotics but in my case they thought this was also contributing to my calf problems. Other than aggressive massage you are going to need a foam roller and stick and aggressively work on it yourself. Hope this helps

                I had a calf strain (a minor tear in the gastroc) back in JUN2009.  Doctor said that incomplete healing/repair would render it susceptible to subsequent strains/tears.  (I actually know two guys who "play through" their strains, which recur about every year or two.  Same spot for each guy.)  Anyway, my treatment was 3-4 weeks of no running, then ease back in.  It's been fine ever since.


                But mine felt like a calf cramp, and was not as severe as what you describe.  Might yours have been a simple muscle cramp?  Running through it, even after it loosens, would leave the muscle sore at least for the next day.


                Either way, my treatment for calves and Achilles is a mix of : (a) rolling the lower leg muscles with Trigger Point Technologies stuff; (b) eccentric heel drops, as slow as my boredom will permit; and (c) occasional massage therapy (not to be confused with massage -- MT is targeted, and it does not feel soothing, indulgent or relaxing).  MT was the best, IMO, but also the most costly.

                "I want you to pray as if everything depends on it, but I want you to prepare yourself as if everything depends on you."

                -- Dick LeBeau

                Tomorrow will be worse

                  I just started training last fall and started to get knee pain fairly quickly, then just naturally changed my strike to more mid/fore-foot, while trying to find something that didn't hurt. I was encouraged to keep that strike, as it both kept me from overstriding (which I was) and reduced impact force. That was in November, so I've pretty much had sore calves since then, and oddly enough the only way to minimize the calf soreness is to get into a very low-heeled shoe (mizuno musha for me). All that to say that I don't know wtf is going on, but just try to mess with your gait, strike etc until you feel nd what works for you.

                  Tomorrow will be worse

                    Actually I think that might be one of the most useless things I've ever written. Sorry...

                      No, not at all, because I've been working diligently on remaking my stride, running more erect, landing more midfoot, wearing more minimal shoes (Newtons), and all of it, so the shared experience really helps. Thanks.