Squatting to Fix My Calves
The last few times I’ve run have been a disaster. My calves have been so tight … like to the point that I am stopping to stretch about every five minutes.
By the end of a run my calves feel like rocks. They are super tight and hard, and only after a few minutes of rest do they go back to their normal state. I have had calf tightness before; it’s always come and gone. It’s been an annoyance but never as frustrating as what I’m experiencing right now.
When I got home from my run last night I decided I need to replicate EVERYTHING I used to do when the calf tightness wasn’t really an issue:
-Stopping to stretch after five minutes of running
-Stopping to stretch at mile two
-Doing the standard calf stretch against a wall after each run for 90 seconds on each leg
-Going back to wearing the Brooks Adrenalines
-Doing strength training at least 2X per week to address any muscle weaknesses or imbalances that have developed (most important)
Since January 2016 I’ve been dealing with these calf issues on-and-off and since then I’ve been doing all kinds of things to try and fix the issues. I have taken on new calf stretching routines. I’ve started doing calf raises every day. I changed my running shoes. I feel like I’ve done it all and nothing is really helping.
Maybe I am over stretching/over stimulating my calves and I just need to go back to the basics. It really seems like since January of last year the issue has only gotten progressively worse.
While I really want to see if going back to the basics helps, my biggest theory is that I have muscle imbalances (outside of my calves) that are causing problems with my calves.
When your calves are as bothersome as mine are some days you simultaneously want to baby them and stretch them. There have been many leg days that have been skipped because I just want my legs to feel totally healed.
In retrospect this is silly because squats, deadlifts, etc. do not impact the calves that I know of. Skipping leg day has possibly made my issue worse by making my other leg muscles weaker.
Let’s face it, I am not light as a balloon and running puts a lot of pressure on my legs. If they aren’t strong then running will likely make them feel weaker. That’s my train of thought right now anyway.
This means I really need to recommit to doing leg day every week without fail, along with getting back to the basics with stretching.
Tom recommends assessing calf strength by seeing if you can do 40 single calf raises on each leg. He says he likes his runners to be able to do this easily. Luckily I was able to hit 40 on both legs with no issue so I think my calf strength is fine. It’s really got to be something else.
From what I read last night, weak glutes and/or hamstrings can very easily lead to calf tightness. This means I really need to get back to upping my squat game.
If you’re a long time reader you’ll probably remember that in 2013 I used to be able to squat 150lbs and deadlift 190lbs. I stopped squatting and deadlifting that heavy when I started training for my first half marathon; as you can imagine lifting that heavy will leave your legs very sore and make it hard to hit your paces.
Since then, every year I have squatted/deadlifted less and less weight. It used to be that 100lbs was EASY to squat; I could do it in my sleep. These days if I squat 50lbs I am feeling it the next day and the next day after that.
This cannot happen any longer. It’s time for me to up my squat and deadlift game!!! I feel like clearly I’ve lost the gains I made before and now I need to build back up. I feel almost certain this will improve my calf issues. If it doesn’t then I will need to go see a doctor but everything I’ve read online seems to suggest that in most cases a person can take care of calf issues at home.
Basically, this whole post is to say I need to get back to the basics all around!
Have you ever done the 40 single calf raise test?
Do you still squat/deadlift heavy when you’re in training mode for a race?
Any certified PTs out there, are there any other specific exercises you recommend?