Athletes or not, everyone should invest time in calf flexibility. Its muscles are used on a regular and also deserve our attention.
As I mentioned on my June Check-in, I am investing on slowly taking my training (and intake) to the next level. It is not like I am going to go back to the routine I had before surgery just yet. But I will be pushing myself to extend my present limits a little bit more.
This week for example, I started following a from couch to 5km plan. At first, I thought about putting a schedule together my own. But to save myself some time, I am decided to go with a well-known app: Nike+.
I have been using their plans since I started running around 8 years ago. I like them and their schedule fits me well. Because of my lack of conditioning, I chose the “beginner” level. It proved to be the best option for me indeed.
When I started walking again last month, I experienced a lot of pain. It got better as I progressed, but it still bothers me. I feel discomfort also when I am just sitting or lying down. Without my compression socks I would not know what to do.Turn a setback into a comeback.
Crawling my way back to running
It was not any different during my first running session earlier this week. Even though it was in fact a 1 mile walk, it did not go that smooth. It all started well, but after 300m the pain increased. The worst was around 1km when I could barely lift my feet. I had to get home somehow, so I kept walking.
When I got home, I began to do some stretching right away. There is no better way to cool down after a physical activity. Stretching not only improves flexibility. It enhances development of body awareness and increases mental and physical relaxation(1) too.
A complete workout should start and end with some kind of stretching to prepare muscles for both action and rest. Flexibility allows the full range of motion of a joint. It is valid for anytime you use your muscles. Whether performing daily activities or working out, you use your muscles.
You have muscles too
It is not rare to see the word ‘muscles’ being associated with hypertrophy. However, whether you do strength training or not, you still have exactly the same amount of muscles in your body as a bodybuilder. They may not be “developed”, but they are there, under your skin.
And the same way as we eat to have energy to move our body, we should also assure that our muscular system is functioning properly.
Flexibility is frequently overlook, including by experienced athletes. For many it feels like a waste of time, without purpose. To bring some light to the topic, I will be writing a series of blog around mobility and flexibility. Even if you do not practice any kind of physical activity, you can surely benefit a lot from it.
On this first post, I will write about the muscles that have been bothering me most during my inactivity: the calves.
The calf muscle is made up of 2 muscles: gastrocnemius and soleus. The soleus lies underneath the gastrocnemius. Both originate on the back of the leg around the knee, inserting the heel via the Achilles tendon(2).
During walking, running, or jumping, the calf muscle pulls the heel up to allow forward movement. It happens as its muscles accelerate (plantar)flexion and decelerate dorsiflexion. Soleus and gastrocnemius also stabilize the foot and ankle complex. And believe me, the list of movements does not end here.
Runners know better than anyone else the importance of stretching the calve muscles. One can “feel” them after long or intensive walks too. The thing is: the calf muscles are used in most daily activities, also when one lives a sedentary lifestyle.
Try to imagine how much pressure is put into the calves. From the moment we stand up and start to move, we are using them. Now tell me: when was the last time you showed your calves some love by stretching them or giving them a good massage?
Stretching the calves
It is not the first nor the last time I will say that: invest on a foam roller. It is easy to use and its benefits are huge. There is a wide range of models on the market. They not only differ in size, but also in hardness. Do not let the initial discomfort discourage you. It will go away as you release the muscles.
When performing a Self-myofascial release stretching, or SMR, sustain pressure on the tender spot for at least 30 seconds. Depending on your ability to relax, you might need to hold the position for a little longer.
In the beginning, you will come across various “knots” on your muscles. For starters, focus on releasing the tension on just 2 or 3 of them each time.Don’t let your struggle become your identity.
Besides foam rollers, other options are lacrosse balls and a stick. Personally, I prefer the foam roller for the calves, but you get the same effect with lacrosse balls. When it comes to the stick, you will need someone else’s assistance when massaging the calves.
After doing SMR, it is advisable to also perform some static, active or dynamic stretches too. Please consult your Personal Trainer about the best option for your level.
In short, these are some of the points covered:
- We all should take care of our muscles, athletes or not
- The calves are formed by soleus and gastrocnemius
- Calves are used for basic activities such as walking
- It is important to stretch muscles
- Foam rollers, lacrosse balls and sticks can be used to perform SMR
SMR and stretching can be done every day. Including on rest days. By doing them with proper form you will get proper warm-up and adequate rest between training sessions.
Do you invest time in calf flexibility? When was the last time you stretched them?
I am joining the following link parties with this blog:
Have a fabulous day!
* You can also find me on:
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+Debbieinshape/ (em português)
1. How to Stretch: http://web.mit.edu/tkd/stretch/stretching_5.html
2. Calf Muscle: http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/picture-of-the-calf-muscle?page=1
* This is not a paid article nor I received the products mentioned on this post. I do not represent or have any kind of affiliation with any of the brands mentioned above. I bought all products myself for personal use.
** Before you start any physical activity, please consult your health care provider.