A bit of history. I am 22, been running for 4-5 years now, and have slowly increased my stamina and time. About the end of 2012 I was running 6:15/30 pace (3-4 miles). I've never really trained for anything longer. I started doing crossfit at the end of 2013 November - Jan, probably 4-5 times a week. I'm in the military so I have to run 3 miles for my fitness test. In January I had to take my first test. I used to run around 19:30-20:00. I ran 22:50. My legs felt horrible. My legs felt like they had no energy. I'm not sure if its cramps, but my legs felt like when you get to the end of a workout and you have no energy left in them. I could barely run. Now 4 months later I've haven't done to much running, but I have been on my feet a lot, 3-6 mile hikes w/30-80lbs of gear. And i've never really had any problems with those. However, my shins would get the worst cramps. the front outside muscle (anterior tibialis) would almost feel like its about to get ripped off my shin and would be rock hard. Not to mention my quads and hamstrings would just feel weak.
We have been doing a decent amount of running lately. My legs feel horirble, almost like ive never ran before. I can barely get through 5-8 mintues of running before my shins immediately cramp up so painful that I can't run. My quads and hamstrings feel incredibly weak. I feel pathetic. I went for a 3 mile run and finished in 25 minutes. I have never run that slow in over 4 years. The thing is, I don't feel tired, i'm not out of breath, or struggling. It is literally just my legs. So right now my quads (closer to my knee and on the inside of my legs), my hamstrings, and shins (front outside) get tired/heavy and cramp up. I've been waking up a lot for the last couple months with terrible cramps in my calves, and hamstrings. I have no idea what is going on. I was diagnosed that I was slightly anemic. I don't know if that could be part of the problem, but I feel like I eat plenty of meat.
If you have any ideas please help.
Thank you, David
So sorry to hear about your leg issues. It sounds pretty discouraging, so I hope this helps. I'm a massage therapist and I often search Active.com for articles they are presenting about benefits massage for active individuals, such as yourself. I came across this article called "Rub Out Sore Legs with Massage" (http://www.active.com/cycling/Articles/Rub_out_sore_legs_with_massage). It was targeted to bicyclists, but reading about your troubles, I felt like it pertains to you as well. I'd like to note this part of the article:
"Lactic acid--the metabolic waste product produced by your body when you exercise hard--pools in the muscles, giving them a dead leg feel. Although lactic acid is naturally removed through blood circulation, it can take up to several days to leave your system depending on how fit you are. Massage is the answer. By increasing blood circulation through massage, the acid is flushed out of tired or strained muscles much faster than your body could under its own power, equating to faster recovery and better performance."
Let me know if this helps at all. Also, should you decide that trying a massage to flush out the toxins built up in your muscles, beware that there are many types of massage. You will want to look for someone who specializes in Sports Massage. If they can blend in some Trigger Point Therapy and Active Release Technique then that will be awesome.
Be in touch, if I can be of any help.
If I were you, I would be less concerned about solving this problem than I would about preventing it. I am familiar with the fact that military requires fitness tests from time to time, that these tests are important to one's future in the military, and must be taken seriously. Unfortunately, many fail these tests, not for lack of training, but due to over-training. It is possible to overwork the body to the point that it becomes weaker instead of stronger, and yours would appear to be one such case.
I remember training with one soldier for his eventual fitness test, and he managed to improve rapidly within a very short time. While he consulted with me personally, it was soon apparent that he responded well to any discussion of progressive stimulus and growth, but did not seem to understand restraint. He expected more and more of himself, but rather than allow his body to adapt to each challenge, he pushed himself beyond healthy adaptation to injury and compensation. He ran until his feet bled, and ran some more. He entered races injured. Many others, including myself, have made the mistake of over-training, because it is hard to turn off the competitive juices that success in endurance sport requires. I think anyone reading this account understands and can relate to the desire for success via training. The problem is that training is only part of what is required for success in this sport, or any other physical discipline.
A coach was once quoted as saying that more races have been won in bed than on the track. What he meant was that rest was as important as training. For a body to develop physically, there must first be a challenge, then an adaptation. These are two sides to the same coin, and both take time. It takes time to train, and it takes time for your body to adapt to the stimulus of that training. While the saying is correct in that much of this adaptation takes place during sleep, it does not mean that the bulk of non-sleeping time will produce better results if it is spent training. In fact, only a small portion of each day needs to be spent challenging the body to produce a positive effect. It isn't even necessary to challenge the body each day. Most training, it turns out, can use the body the way it is without requiring any major adaptation at all. Even light training helps to encourage progress by increasing circulation to the working muscles.
Legendary coach Arthur Lydiard is often associated with the long-slow-distance (LSD) method of training. While he did not contend that it was the only way to develop a runner's body, he did recognize and popularize the role of training at an easier pace to prepare for greater challenges over time. Runners using this method often spend the bulk of their mileage at a pace much slower than what they are capable of. When I look at your numbers, it appears that much of your training is at target pace, which is capacity or race pace. If I wanted to race in the sixes, which I usually have for your target distance, I would not spend most of my training time at that pace. The point of the race is to test what is achieved via more modest means. An occasional speed challenge is all that is required to stimulate growth to that potential, the ability to sustain that pace for an occasional race. In your case, you might only need to hold that pace a few times a year to be able to pull it off when it counts.
The rest of the time, you should spend divided between shorter bursts of higher speed, and much longer recovery running. Of course, don't forget the rest, which will come much easier when you do not push so hard while you are awake. Protein intake is helpful, but it must be allowed to make repairs without tearing everything up as fast as it heals. Crossfit or other cross-training can be useful, but the time spent on it should not be added to your other training, and deducted from it instead.
Take a tip from those who learned the hard way, that the rate of muscle breakdown cannot exceed the rate of muscle repair. With an eye on this rule, and perhaps some extra rest in the mean time, you will see progress again in your future, as a runner and as a soldier. Good luck, David!