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Beginner Running

Tight calf muscles! Help?!

asked over 4 years ago | Report

It doesn't take long after I start running for my calf muscles to become so tight that I have to stop - one day it got so bad I could barely walk. Apparently this happens to my brother and my dad had a problem with it when he was our age (early twenties) as well. Anybody have an idea of what could be behind this? What are the best calf stretches? How about a recommendation for shoes?

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  • Make sure to do a full round of stretches prior to your workout. Meaning toe touches standing up, stretch your calves sitting down by grabbing your toes and pulling them towards you (if flexible enough), Calf stretches on a curb or a ledge (bounce up and down, stretching the calves while doing so) about 20 times. Repeat these if necessary to loosen up the muscles. I usually do this one mile into my run, after my warm up, and after I have completed my workout.

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • I get these annoying calf problems too sometimes. The only thing that helps me is changing my shoes. I have a couple of pair that I alternate with and when I get the cramps I use my more padded shoes. This just happened to me on Wed. so I wore my more padded shoes on Friday and felt like a million bucks. I hope this helps.

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT TIGHT CALF MUSCLES WHEN I RUN?

    PUBLISHED 12/05/2006
    Hydrate, warm up, and stretch. When you run, the soleus-one of the calf's two muscles-contracts in order to absorb the impact. A cold, inflexible muscle and dehydration magnify the stress on the muscle, which can lead to tightness. Drinking fluids an hour before you head out, starting each run with a 10-minute jog, and stretching and strengthening your calves will help keep them strong, loose, and pain free. To strengthen them, do heel raises three times a week. Stand on your toes for three seconds, then release. Repeat 10 times. Stretch after every workout. Place your hands on a wall and one foot in front of the other. Press the back heel to the ground, then bend the back knee slightly to target the soleus. Fatigue can also lead to tight calves, so build up miles gradually and take rest days. If tightness or pain persists, try ice or massage, and see a sports-medicine physician.
    -Donna Voorhees-Waltz is a running coach in Roebling, New Jersey (www.trainerwoman.com).

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • I get tight calves sometimes, but I've found a good stretch that I do a couple minutes before and after a run. Basically, you start by crouching down with your butt on your heels and balance on your toes. Then slowly readjust your balance so that you can put your heels on the ground. You may have to stop somewhere in the middle and let your calve muscles strech out, and/or have something in front of you to hold onto to help balance... but this stretch helps me a lot.

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • When I was in the Army, we exercised every day! One particular stretch I remember (and one that I liked) was called the flutter kick. Swimmers do the same stretch too. You lay down on your back with your hands under your butt. With your legs stretched all the way out, raise your feet six inches off the ground and hold them there for 20 seconds. Then relax for 10 seconds. After that, start again a few inches off the ground and start kicking, but no more than 45 degrees from the floor. Do that for one minute. That is then one repitition. Try doing at least 10 reps in a row.
    I find it interesting to see how long you can hold your feet six inches above the floor. See how long you can do it. This exercise really strengthens your legs, especially your butt and thighs. If the Army believes in it, it must be a success!

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • This happens to me a lot, too, and I've been running for years. I'm never sure why it happens, and in fact, this week my left calf muscle is really tight- I was just complaining to one of my running buddies about it. Stretching is important and does help, but I've also found that a good slow warmup of about ten to twenty minutes, before kicking it up a notch, goes a long way towards loosening it up. I had the same experience as you had only one time- it hurt so much I walked back almost two miles rather than risk hurting it- and I switched to some cross training for a week or two to let it heal and loosen up again.

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • If the tightness feels more like a swelling or pressure, sort of throbs a little after you stop... best get it checked out. Having said that most of the time its nothing and I see lots of good advice already.

    It could be you just have weak calves and need to build them up. Doing some calf raises each day may help strengthen (along with easy stretching).

    I've been plagued with calf problems but am mostly free of them now, here is my best advice...

    1. Check your shoes. The wrong shoes can really put pressure on your calfs (too soft is just as bad as too hard). If you can afford to get some fitted, if not make sure you've got a pair of running shoes which are nice and light (not cross trainers). Pronation is a common cause of calf problems and the correct pair of shoes can make a huge difference!

    2. Check your stride. I had a lot of problems with poor running technique, best way to explain is I wasnt using my bum muscle so when my foot hit the ground I practiced using my upper thigh and bum to pull my leg through... rather than the calf doing all the work.

    3. Stretch gently! Dont over stretch or you'll cause yourself problems. Make sure you warm up and then stretch. Also stretch on your off days, just to slowly lengthen and strengthen your calfs. The two muscles you want to target are the 'short' and 'long' calf. The long on needs a nice straight leg stretch (press against the wall one). For the 'short' do the same but with a bent leg. Hold for 30 seconds each time. I stretch twice a day every day these days.

    4. Watch the hills. Most stress goes on your calf running hills (up and down are bad). Avoid hills in the first part of your run, let your legs warm up for a good 5-10 minutes before kicking into the hill part. Try to mix up your training so you have some nice flat runs too, give you legs a chance to heal up and build strength.

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • Stretch, stretch and more stretches! I would take a few days off (rest) make sure your hydrated. Just left dr's office for my son who has very tight calf muscles. He said good calf stretch is the one where your in a lunge type postition and you put the back foot flat on floor and the next is to place your leg on a small stool and slowly bend from the waist with your upper body straight. If you do if correctly you can feel it in the calf. Not sure if I make alot of sense..LOL..very hard to explain! Hope you get better fast!

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • I had sore calves from hill climbing.when I first started..A good hands on massage will work wonders.Tell your partner its the least they can do.Your doing the hard work.Build your mileage slowly and you body will adapt...Good luck Kate and keep smiling..Tim

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • i had the same problem. tried some new shoes, that helped for a while, i was stretching lots.
    then i was told to try a foam roller. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0007W2FEU/ref=asc_df_B0007W2FEU930256?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&tag=googlecom09c9-20&linkCode=asn&creative=380341&creativeASIN=B0007W2FEU

    its basically like a rolling pin for your muscles. start at the ankle slowly roll your way up, always rolling towards your heart. if you feel knots, stop and hold. and you should feel slight pain, like a massage almost.

    try it. i seriously felt like i had new legs after i used it only ONCE! and i have also been told, stretch AFTER you run, not before, but you can use the foam roller before runs.

    answered over 4 years ago |edited over 4 years ago |Report

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  • This is an article in www.sportsinjuryclinic.net whichmay be helpful to u:

    Tight Calf Muscles (Gastrocnemius and Soleus)

    A common problem in athletes is tight calf muscles, especially in runners. The calf muscle group consists of the gastrocnemius muscle and the soleus muscle. The symptoms are a gradual tightening in the calf muscles which can get worse when running or improve while running only to tighten up later.

    Why do they tighten up?
    You might have a compartment syndrome.
    You might have a bio mechanical problem in your running style and need orthotics. See a sports injury specialist or podiatrist that can do bio mechanical analysis.
    Your muscles have gradually tightened up over a period of months through poor stretching.
    Tiny micro tears in the muscles cause them to go into spasm. When they are in spasm or contracted then blood cannot easily get into them. The muscles have squeezed the blood out like a sponge. If the muscles do not get enough blood then they will not get enough nutrients and so will tighten up to protect themselves and weaken and so on.

    What can the athlete do about it?
    Have the flexibility of the muscles tested (see stretching).
    See a sports massage therapist who can give a deep massage. Depending on how bad it is they might need three or more treatments. It is important the gap between them is not too long as they will regress back to their original condition.
    Start a stretching programme.s
    Continue to stretch for at least 6 weeks at this rate.
    I stretch and stretch but seem to get nowhere, why?
    You might not be stretching enough even though you think you are.
    You might be stretching too hard. If you force the muscle the 'stretch reflex' is triggered which contracts it. By going against this you are damaging the muscle. Stretch gently, do not bounce, ease into it and feel the muscle stretching.
    If it is just one leg that is tight you could have pressure on the sciatic nerve which causes the tightness. You should get this sorted out first.

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • Its always interesting to see the divergence of opinion on stretching, but there is quite a bit of controversy about its real versus perceived benefit, especially stretching before a run when your muscles are cold. I had soleus issues about seven years ago. A PT gave me a foam roller, and I roll out my calves (in addition to my IT bands) before and after workouts. Pain resolved and I haven't had the issue since. If you are going to stretch, try active techniques like walking lunges and/or calf raises, especially if you are a morning trainer and hit the streets shortly after getting out of bed. Hope that helps.

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • Didn't read all the posts but it sounds like you need a Big Woody. It is sort of like The Stick but only better. If you can't find one The Stick is a good sub.

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • That happened to me! It was like the opposite of shin splints and I felt like I had bricks for legs...it became more painful even to walk than to run. I wen to a sports therapist/active release therapist (ART) and it was amazing! Really painful 30 minute session, but I haven't had any problems since, and I really recommend you checking it out.

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • Yeah I second the motion on the ART, or find you a good sports chiropractor that practices the Graston technique. You will be back running in less than a week's time.

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • I had somthing similar. My calves when tight and they were rock solid, and felt like a bottle of coke about to explode.
    I went though trainers, stretches etc.
    After about 11 week the problem just went.
    I dont know if you run a lot, but for me I concluded that my legs just weren't used to the running. Although I built up slowly over the 11 weeks I went from being sedentary to running 5 miles a day. I used to get the pain after only 1 mile. Now I am much lighter and my legs are stronger there is no pain.
    Stretching is a must always. If you concerned perhaps see your gp.

    answered over 4 years ago |Report

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  • I would say it's your shoes if it goes away when you switch them. I know I had problems with calf cramps in the past and recently trying out vibrams which are killing my calves. Try stretching and strengthing and taking it easy. If youare attempting to run with a minimalist shoe that will take time to acclimate to. This might help to. http://www.trifuel.com/training/run/3-ways-to-get-the-benefits-of-barefoot-running-without-actually-running-barefoot

    answered over 2 years ago |Report

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  • Have you ever tried compression running socks...the ones that extend the entire calf length? I would think that the compression would seriously alleviate the extreme tightness that you experience. May be worth a try!

    answered over 2 years ago |Report

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  • I have been fighting with the same calf problem. I am just getting back into running this summer after 20 years of office work :P I have slowed down my runs, and always stop when the tightness hits. After running I stretch and take a VERY cold bath. I find that stretching before the run makes it worse, but I make sure that I do a 10 minute warm up walk ( start slow but speed up after about 5) before each run. I seem to be winning. ...edit..if anyone has had these problems and used compression socks...let me know if they helped.

    answered over 2 years ago |edited over 2 years ago |Report

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  • I actually have the same problem with you! If this is the case, firstly make sure you hydrate yourself the night before you run and on the day before you run use hydration tablet to provide enough electrolyte into your system. Next make sure you do warm up till you sweat! and make sure you feel the stretch on your calf muscles. Spend even longer time stretching after your workout! Start slow and breath, maybe your system might be slow in delivering oxengy to your muscles. If your calf muscles need to be strengthen if so hit the gym.

    Are you a midfoot striker? as Midfoot strike require stronger calf, can consider Newton shoe else wait for Brooks Pureproject. You may try Compression Calf Guard from 2XU I combine CW-X Compression long tight with 2XU Compression Calf Guard magically no calf pain today!

    And lastly do not over train! Starts slow and slowly build up its takes time. Like Haile Gebrselassie advice to all new runner "Patience"

    answered over 2 years ago |Report

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  • I always stretch my calves using Downward Facing Dog and find that it also stretches out my hamstrings and strengthens at the same time. http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/491

    answered over 2 years ago |Report

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  • I get knots in my calves every now and then. I bought a foam roller from the running store and it helped a bunch. Give it a try.

    answered over 2 years ago |Report

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  • I put my toes on stairs and lower my heels below the stair one at a time to stretch the muscle. My boyfriend bought compression sleeves and swears by them.

    answered over 2 years ago |Report

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  • Try compression socks. They help me.

    answered over 2 years ago |Report

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  • Oh yes, the dreaded calves. I too have had problems with them and here is what worked for me (you could try it too but it depends on your level of fitness and if it's your cup of tea.) I switched from regular running shoes to New Balance Minimus shoes. It has helped me build up strength in my feet, calves, achilles, and ankles. I still will sometimes have issues if I try to run too fast or I take too many days off from running but ever since I switched I have not had really any trouble. Another thing, get The Stick. It's like a foam roller but it is thin and made of large beads that you use to roll up and down your legs. It's great to use before you run (some people say stretching before running is a bad idea because your muscles are not warm) and then use it again after your run to help massage the muscles. Hope this helps.

    answered almost 2 years ago |Report

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  • The best calf stretch is to put one leg on a chair, lock the knee and slowly bring the center of your chest to your toes until you feel the stretch. Sports therapists use this a lot because your calves, knees and hamstrings are a chain so they should be stretched together to really work out the problems. If your calves are tight this will be a tough one but it does get easier. 3 sets and hold for 30 seconds once to twice a day.

    answered about 1 year ago |Report

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