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Good morning everyone. This may end up a touch long, so i appologize in advance (no chapters, I promise!)
I started off last June at 5'9" 280lbs. My wife and I started a regimen of walking and at the same time, started altering our diets for the better. I also cut out 99% of my caffeine/soda intake (I'll still have one every once in a great while as a treat). Around September, I get the insane idea to run a 5K with the goal being able to RUN the entire 5K without walking. Now, I've dropped 30+ lbs twice before using running as an integral peice of the puzzle and I've never used specialized running shoes, so... I did what I always did, and got a fairly nice pair of Champion running shoes from Target. Around the middle of October, I ended up with some lovely sharp pains in my shins with additional pain at specific spots in the bone. Talked to my Dr. and he verified shin splints, and x-rays added in a couple of stress fractures. I stopped all running, but I would still walk and pulled my bike out of the garage and just did that until the beginning of Dec. In Dec, everything was going swimmingly again. I had visited a running shoe store that's used by a lot of runners and multi-sport athletes in Memphis. I was told that I over-pronate and I ended up with a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS12 shoes. I ran a 4K on Dec 28th, and about a week after that I started getting a dull, yet strong feeling of a pulled muscle in the lower part of both legs. I laid off the running yet again, and 7 weeks ago started a C25K that also had leg strengthening exercises to 1) slowly build up to a 5K, and 2) to attempt to avoid injury again.
I just finished week 6 of the program (repeated week 3) and as of Tuesday (2nd run) the pain is back, but only in my right leg so far... I'm thinking I have a Soleus muscle issue of some sort, and I'm at a loss about what I can do. The pain itself is in the inside of my lower leg, below the gastrocnemius, but above the achilles. I know the soleus is on both sides, but the pain is only on the inside pretty much dead-on 9 o'clock. My next step is going to see a specialist, but I want to see what people who have run for a long time have to say first.
I have plans to run a 5K on May 3rd, and I've entered a Sprint Tri (.25mi, 12mi, 3.1mi) on May 17th with the goal of completion.
Thanks for your time
Web, with your history I would not advise any aggressive competition schedule, though the short sprint tri may not bother you too much. It's good you cut back on the added sugars as everybody should, but the full benefits of that strategy will take a while to pay off. Right now it would be best to take your time with this. You're not getting any younger, and the disadvantage of age is not so much the decline of capacity as the accumulation of insults to the body over the years. Don't risk any more stress fractures or pulled muscles.
That being said, you've probably encountered a few garden-variety conditions that almost any athlete will face from time to time. Since many of your past injuries have been symmetrical, I'm not too bothered by the fact that your recent rear calf pain is on one leg. We often look for anatomical asymmetry in these cases, but that should have been evident before if it was the case.
The shift from walking to bike, and to the 4k were closely spaced by your account, so there may not have been enough time for the calf muscles to adapt between these modes of exercise. I always think the best way to train for an event is to simulate it at least in part, by running faster-than-goal-pace speeds at very short distances, goal pace at shorter-than-target-mileage distances, and slower pace at greater-than-target mileage distances. Walking can be great therapy, but uses the muscles differently, as does the bike. Cross-training is a helpful adjunct to targeted training, but no substitute for it.
When considering the effects of any of these exercises, it is important to emphasize that while mild exercise can help to organize tissue regrowth after an injury, focused exercise can also inhibit healing in many cases. While walking may seem easier by aerobic standards, it can be really hard on calves and hips that are used to something else. Anecdotally, I found distance walking at a good pace to be a lot more painful than running when I tried it as recovery therapy in the past. I had a history of long walks, but none of it was recent. I had adapted to running and had to adapt back, yet plunged in without allowing time for this.
I think the measured approach of the C25K was a good idea. It may have been too early for you to engage in strengthening exercise, though. Most of these are designed to prepare you for the stress of exercise, not necessarily to help you recover from it. You may have been piling on to injuries not yet healed. Many of the "injuries" we talk about here are conditions that, as I noted above, occur in the average athlete. We think about them as injuries because they hurt like real fractures, tears, sprains, etc., but are often due to micro-damage that is a natural part of the muscle rebuilding process.
Small portions of muscle can contract and refuse to release, causing a stiffening (or reduced contraction in some cases) of the entire muscle, and radiating pain syndromes that seem more dangerous than they really are. The muscle may be essentially OK, but overtrained, or in many cases, undertrained. When approaching this type of condition with exercise of any kind, there is often a fine line between making it better and making it worse. If the muscle has been overtrained it is very easy to make it worse. If it is undertrained, it can take more time to improve than you want to allow. The muscle may rebel throughout either process and delay improvement. What is worse, is that exercise on muscle in spasm can force maladaptations in your running form that cause further injury or injury elsewhere. While successful exercise can be seen as proof of recovery, it is not necessarily the best means to that end.
I was out running on a beach the other day with some newbies, and described a rule of thumb I use that can be helpful for pacing exercise and reducing injuries, which I think of as a "rule of threes" to remember. You can injure yourself in less than 3 seconds of exercise. It can take more than 3 minutes to run out of gas when you are pushing too hard (runners make this mistake in races all the time). It can take 3 hours or more after exercise to realize that you overdid it, after respiration and circulation have slowed. It can take 3 days to recover from overexertion, or to distinguish a real injury from soreness. It can take 3 weeks or more to start feeling the benefits of healthy exercise, or to feel some injuries. It can take 3 months or more to recover from minor injuries, or to identify long-lasting ones. Keeping these concepts in mind can help to build the patience you need to exercise successfully, though the numbers are not meant to be exact. Just keep them in mind, and you will pace yourself better.
Back to your calf, you might try some pressure to the center of your calf below the Gastroc because it is a popular trigger point. Some people foam-roll this area regularly, but on myself, I prefer to work it with soap and water in the shower. Targeted pressure often causes the tightness to release, if that is the cause of the problem, and with a reduction in tension, comes a reduction in pain. It isn't like a circuit-breaker you reset so you can go out and tear it up again, it's just a way to maximize recovery time by relaxing the tissue for better healing. Sleep is when the body can concentrate its resources on healing. Sleep is always more productive when muscles are relaxed, and this is a common and useful way to relax them.
Sorry if my response was a touch longer, but I got you to relax for a few minutes, heh-heh.
Lower leg injuries are fairly common among us runners. They are particularly common as you begin to increase mileage and/or speed. You have probably heard that you should not increase your mileage by more than 10% per week, and should not try to run through an injury. Assuming that you are minding that advice, I have found a combination of the following to be helpful in reducting lower leg pain (in order of importance):
1. Stretching -- including but not limited to both aspects of the calf; and the hamstring.
2. Strength -- strong hips and calves really help prevent lower leg injuries (look up exercises on the Internet).
3. Self massage with a foam roller/lax ball/stick.
4. Ice and ibuprofen.
I hope that this helps.