I had my daughter about a year ago, and I have finally found some time to get "fit" again. I used to run all the time without any problems but when running now, I find that my calf muscles get so tight that it forces me to stop running and walk until they feel loose again. But right when I start running about 2 minutes later, they are ultra tight again! What gives? Is it just my body not being used to physical activity? And any ideas on what I can do to alleviate this pain while running?
I have a few questions which i hope with answers i can help some.
What surface are you running on, outdoors or a treadmill?
With that said, if your running outdoors are you starting out fast? If your running inside on the treadmill what speed are you running at? Do you warm up before you start your run?
Looking forward to your answers.
First thing is not to worry, because this is NORMAL after a long layoff. You work hard to build up lean muscle, and it disappears quickly after you stop using it. When you come back, there is soreness from the tiny micro-tears and mini-spasms that dog returning runners after the hiatus.
The rule of thumb I got from a masters runner who had been running competitively since college, was that it often takes about twice as long to regain what you lost as it does to lose it. In other words, 6 months off, plan a year for your comeback. This will vary by individual, but the value of this rule is to allow time to reverse the atrophy that takes place when your body reabsorbs the muscle tissue it has no longer needed, and replaces it with weaker muscle that is more energy efficient at rest.
Christine's advice for warming up is very important as you rebuild, because it will be much easier to injure yourself during this time. Things to look out for as your calves stiffen, is the dreaded "shin splint" on the front of your calf, since the job of these muscles involves lengthening the stiff ones on the other side. If you go at your recovery too hard, both sides of the calf will stiffen from fighting each other, and it will feel like you have legs of cement.
You will get advice to stretch, but remember stretching is a two-edged sword, which can help or hinder your progress depending on timing and intensity. Try to confine your calf stretches to using each muscle to stretch the other through its normal range and no further for a while, to encourage circulation only. Avoid using your hands or ropes, towels, etc., until your fitness has improved measurably. If you stretch against contracted (stiff) muscle fibers, the "eccentric contraction" can result in further tearing of the muscle.
Nutritionally, evidence is strong that a high protein meal shortly after your workouts, or before/during depending on the length of the workout, will be better absorbed and utilized than at other times of the day. While carbs are important for muscle energy and recovery, they are not your priority during your rehab period and can even interfere with the production of tissue-building hormones (this is especially important for evening workouts). You'll need carbs more as your fitness and energy levels increase. Above all don't go hungry, because your body will break down more muscle tissue for protein and energy if you do, and your gains will be lost as they were in your layoff. Timing is key.
There is so much bad advice in the fitness world right now, that it helps to get backup from authoritative sources at times. Doctors and researchers have spent lifetimes accumulating valuable data about how the body works, but this valuable information often gathers dust while entrepreneurs cash in on lucrative pop-med fixes and protocols. The following link to one of those rare physicians who specialize in muscle recovery, can explain your soreness better...http://lifeafterpain.com/info/?s=post+exercise+soreness
I run on a treadmill. I probably need to slow it down because I usually only have 30 minutes to run and for the past week I've been running a 5k each time just hoping if I push my body the tightening in my muscles will go away because I'm "strengthening them." I see now that I am probably not helping myself by doing that!
I think my competitive nature is pushing me too hard. I suppose I should start doing a warm up walk before I run and maybe stretch a little. I do run at 8.0 for the whole 30 minutes I'm at the fitness center (so I can get a 5k in).. I guess I just need to remind myself that rome wasn't built in a day! I realize now after your posts that I might be hurting myself instead of helping! Should I do walk/run intervals until my legs don't tighten as much?
I would do a walk/run interval for a good 5 min on a brisk pace to warm up. Then after you warm up, i would stretch and then give your run a go. I feel your going too fast before you even warm up and that is causing your tight muscles. If you start slow and warm up you'll be able to do run your 8.0 on the treadmill without tight calves. Just be sure your also hydrated before you begin your run as well as during and after. If you slow down now you'll be able to avoid injury that would sideline you. Nothing wrong with taking your time to build yourself back, as you said, Rome was not built in a day.
Absolutely, I agree. I recommend the Galloway method (for example), which uses timed intervals based on ability for the newbie or recovering runner. C25K from Active.com at the starter level may be appropriate too. I would guess a minimum 3 minute warm up, followed by 5min runs with 1min walks would be a good place to start (you'll probably progress faster). You might be able to program it into the treadmill. You should get the circulation your muscles need without losing your aerobics, which has worked for my injuries many times. No matter what, never hesitate to slow down when you feel them tightening up.
I was just researching the Galloway method and can't seem to find it online. Can anyone help me?
Oh, and I did walk/run intervals yesterday on a treadmill and found that my muscles didn't tighten as much with a 5 minute warmup and a 5 minute cool down. But now I can't seem to get myself to run for five minutes straight without getting light headed! UGH! What gives?
search "jeff galloway."
You may be experiencing low blood sugar or oxygen debt. Make sure you are eating within a few hours of your run, and not doing the run portion too fast until you are back to peak fitness.
Do you wear heels a lot? I always find my calves get tighter with even a slight heel, so I try to wear flats on days I plan to run, and do some shin strenghtening/calve stretching throughout the day as well.
Congrats on the new member of the family! I recently started running again also after many, many years of inactivity. Like you, my biggest problem was my calves tightening up to the point I had to walk. After doing lots of research on running sites, I found that what worked for me is: (1) make sure to be sufficiently warmed up and (2) do "calf drops" after warming up and before running. When I did the calf drops and didn't skimp on the warmup time, I had no problems. I'm doing my first half marathon Sunday (Surf City) and I don't expect to have any problems.
There can be several reasons for tight calves. People often don't think about their ankles when they run (I didn't for over 20 years) but since I learned to not push off using the small muscles in my feet which would then engage the calf muscles and instead peel my foot off the ground and lift my ankles (not kicking or flicking your feet up as that will engage your hamstrings and you don't want to do that) I have not had any calf tightness. Even after ultras my calves are no longer tight. You want to keep your lower legs and feet and ankles really relaxed. It is hard to hurt muscles that are relaxed. You may be holding tension in your ankles - especially if you are new to treadmill running. There could be too much "gripping" going on. Check to see if your stride is too long. If it is, it will make you use more of your calf muscles as your foot leaves the ground. How stiff are your shoes? If they are not flexible they can cause you to engage your calf muscles needlessly. I can give you more resources if you want. I hope you are doing better!
Run More. Effort Less. Prevent Injury.