Lately, I've been trying to focus on recovering right and sorting out the issue with my calf. My left calf has been giving me issues now, on and off, for around six months. Not good. After not being able to train as hard as I've wanted the last month and having to take it easy at the Ron Hebert 8 Miler, I decided it was time for serious action.
I put a call out on Facebook to see if anyone knew about a good person to go to for sports massage in the area. I got a reply from my aerobics teacher and Beachbody coach, Rosalie. I couldn't have gotten feedback from a better person. Rosalie is an RN in addition to being certified for aerobics and many other areas of fitness. (She has many letters after her name, which indicate a great deal of expertise related to fitness and the human body.)
Based on this expertise, I gave a call to Heather at Integrated Therapeutics. I had visited a few massage places' websites before getting Heather's name. Lots of the websites had lots of information about restfulness and moving your body into a place of health. There were a lot of feelings. I have a lot of respect for people who feel this way and respond to this type of treatment; however, I also know myself and know that an emotional approach will not work for me. I want facts. Cold. Hard. Facts. I wanted to go to someone who would say, "This is what you need to do to get better," and lay out a strict set of exercises and rules. I also wanted to go to someone who was an active person, who understood my drive to exercise hard and regularly.
When I called Integrated Therapeutics, I felt good about my choice. I told Heather that my calf was bothering me. "You must be a runner," she said. Excellent. Like her website indicated, she was an active person and knew what I wanted. Integrated Therapeutics worked specifically with athletes and promised an experience that focused on deep tissue massage, active stretching, and trigger point therapy. I had never gone for a massage before, but I thought this was what I needed.
The visit to Integrated Therapeutics was definitely worth while. This was not a relaxing massage experience. My legs and feet were worked over and it was painful at times. We did trigger point and deep tissue on my calves. We did some stretching of the hips, which are always tight. We did some deep tissue massage on the IT band, which felt, surprisingly okay.
I was worried that the issue with my calf might be something serious, however, both Rosalie and Heather said that the pain was just from my calves being overly tight.
After my forty or so minutes on the massage table, I got dressed, and Heather showed me some stretches for the calf and soleus. These stretches would try to address the pain I was having from tightness. I had been doing calf stretches that Rosalie recommended, where I was putting my foot at and angle against the wall and, while standing, lean towards the wall. Heather had me do a stretch where I isolated the soleus. I had to sit with my foot flexed against the wall and lean towards my foot with the opposite arm. As I get more flexible I'm supposed to lift my bottom off the ground using my other leg to support. This will put my foot at an angle and more intensely stretch the calf.
I also got to see some new ways to use the foam roller. Instead or rolling on the roller, which Heather said can cause the muscles to clench in pain instead of release, I am supposed to use the roller for trigger point therapy. I balance myself on the roller, adjust to where I am having pain and let my leg sit there until the pain lessens a bit. I can then move the roller slightly to the next point where I am tight and do the same thing.
I have been stretching and foam rolling daily but with mixed results. I felt better earlier last week right after the massage, but had a terrible run yesterday with a lot of calf pain. I talked with Rosalie more who gave me a pain that she she said is "guaranteed" to fix my problem.
1. Take three days off from exercise of any type.
2. Every day do the following exercise on the foam roller. Position the calf on the roller. You will be working the calf in segments from the top down to the bottom. With the roller positioned, have someone (in my case, my husband, Seth) apply pressure on your leg as it rests on the roller. With pressure applied point and flex your toes, circle your ankle side to side in both directions, move your ankle left and right, and flex your toes and then snap them forward. I'm supposed to do all these moves with the roller at each point along my calf (except one shouldn't do the snapping move at the bottom of the calf by the ankle because it's bad for the achilles.) In addition, after the work with the roller, I'm supposed to stretch my calf against the wall while standing for a minute on each side.
I began work on The Plan today. I've decided to take my three days off from exercise on Saturday - Monday of this week/next. Honestly, this is going to be the hardest part. I can't imagine not exercising for three days in a row. But I see Rosalie's point -- I've tried other things and I need to try rest.
I also had Seth help me with the foam roller piece today. I am very very tight and the foam roller work was quite painful. It was surprising how much it hurt. I'm supposed to be able to do the calf stretch with the wall and bend my knee. I can barely do this. When I can get to that point, I'll know I'm getting better.
I have the big Ragnar Relay coming up in just under a month on May 9 and 10. I want to be able to really run without pain by that point, so I am dedicating myself to recovery at this point in my training cycle. Of course, I want to be ramping up my training now, so this is very frustrating. However, I'm really at the point where I can't even do a flat and basic four mile run without having to stop and try to get my calves uncramped. This really isn't ideal. I love to run, but it's gotten to be something I am not enjoying because of the discomfort every time I got out. I hope that by really focusing on recovery, stretching, and massaging my muscles, I can get back to 100%.
I want to resume hard training. I was loving doing my tempo runs, intervals, hill repeats, and long runs earlier this winter. I have the rest of the SMAC race series through the summer and fall and hope that I am able to sort out my calf issues so that I can train to race my best. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and planning to work hard. Wish me luck!