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1612 Views 3 Replies Latest reply: Nov 6, 2013 4:58 PM by lls_mutant
lls_mutant Rookie 2 posts since
Jan 29, 2010
Currently Being Moderated

Nov 6, 2013 12:15 PM

Calf spasm- cramp or more?

Hi.  I've been training for a marathon that's occurring this Saturday.  I've felt pretty good about my training until this past Sunday, when I was doing my last "long" run (8 miles) and my calf just tightened up six miles in.


The muscle felt like it had been tied in knots- not so much a pain but an extreme tightness.  When I stopped running, the feeling immediately lessened dramatically.  When I slowed my pace, the feeling lessened accordingly- the more I slowed, the better it felt.  I finished the training run without the tightness increasing, went home and iced and took Advil.  The ice didn't seem to help a lot, so I took a hot bath, and that helped a lot.  My leg felt tight when I walked the first day, far less so the second, and not at all the third, even with a light stationary bike workout.


Today I went for a short 3 miler, and about a mile in the tightness crept up on me again.  Same behavior, and when I slowed, it was definitely better than when I went faster.  I hit the running store and got compression sleeves for my legs, and the guy there told me to use the RICE method and I should be fine, but I was wondering if anyone here had had this happen and if there's anything else I can do to cope with it.  Obviously as soon as the marathon's over I'll rest it quite a bit, but I really want to get through the marathon itself.  Any advice?

  • shipo Legend 499 posts since
    Aug 9, 2013
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Nov 6, 2013 12:32 PM (in response to lls_mutant)
    Calf spasm- cramp or more?

    I've had that happen upon occasion.  In my case, the tightness has been traced to a combination of things:

    1. An old injury; my left calf suffered a severe muscle knot back in something like 1981, the knot was so bad it looked like an egg was popping out of the back of my calf (my calves are very thick and heavily muscled).  A person with some medical training (but by no means a medical professional) saw it and immediately punched it with his fist a couple of times which made it unwind and relax back into my leg; yeah, that hurt!
    2. Since then, that calf has been subject to cramps/spasms if I don't religiously stretch it after EVERY run for at least three or four minutes.
    3. Even with the stretching, it has a tendency to cramp up during runs on hot summer days where I may be getting a bit low on water, and conversely, on cold winter days where I'm running away from the wind (i.e. the wind is blowing on the back of my leg).



    Now when I run I over-hydrate prior to summer runs and I keep that calf well wrapped when I run on cold and windy winter days.  If a cramp develops mid-run I slow down or stop and gently stretch (in the case of a severe cramp), and then I find I have to keep things pretty slow for a week or two before I can get back to my normal speed.

    Fat old man PRs:

    • 1-mile (point to point, gravity assist): 5:50
    • 2-mile: 13:49
    • 5K (gravity assist last mile): 21:31
    • 5-Mile: 37:24
    • 10K (first 10K of my Half Marathon): 48:16
    • 10-Mile (first 10 miles of my Half Marathon): 1:17:40
    • Half Marathon: 1:42:13
  • JamesJohnsonLMT Legend 1,291 posts since
    Aug 23, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    2. Nov 6, 2013 1:10 PM (in response to lls_mutant)
    Re: Calf spasm- cramp or more?

    It has all the signs of a muscle that was pushed to the limit during your training, and will benefit from a gentle taper.


    Not sure what your program was, whether there was enough training or maybe too much, but if you go easy the rest of this week, and take your time in the first 8 miles or so of your marathon, you have a chance of the problem not spoiling your event.


    I've had some success in the marathon by running easy through cramps when they happen. Stopping and stretching during the race can be just as bad as pushing hard through the pain. If you have to stop briefly, find the tight spots with your fingers, and pin them while moving the foot around to gently stretch the muscle. Try not to stay motionless too long. You have to optimize circulation and minimize stress on the tissue at the same time. If you keep moving smoothly, a cramp can be kept at bay before it becomes severe.


    My advice beyond taking it easy, is to warm up that calf, probe it with your fingers for tight spots, and rub them out enough to relax them, but not hard enough to make them worse. Rest well, but stay active throughout the day. Remember that too little movement will not deliver enough circulation for this to heal quickly. Consider where you have been running. If there is a gradient to the road surface, the down side requires more action from the calf. Take this into account as you run the marathon course, and good luck to you.

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