Tight calves! How to deal with them NOW
You're working hard to get fit, but every time you try and exercise or run, your calves get crazy tight!
I've seen a lot of this in the clinic recently, so here's my top 5 steps to dealing with tight calves....
1) STRETCH morning and night
Hold each calf stretch for 30-60 seconds, twice through (i.e. 4-8 minutes/session).
Before you exercise:
Hold each stretch for 10 seconds or less, x5 each leg ("dynamic stretching"). Stretches held for longer than this before exercise may put you at risk of injury.
After you exercise:
Hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds
You must stretch each individual muscle for 4 minutes per day, to achieve a real change. Yep, put in the hard yards.
2) MASSAGE or FOAM ROLL
Foam roll once per day for a few weeks, until you feel significant relief from the calf tightness. Remember each time you exercise or spend long days on your feet, your calves will need an extra dose of rolling or massage.
If you don't know what a foam roller is, seek regular massage from your favourire physiotherapist (hi there!).
How often do you need a massage? This depends on a few factors:
How long have tight calves been an issue for you?
How often are you training?
How TIGHT are your calves?
If you've had tight calves for a few months, and are training 3x/wk at moderate intensity with moderately tight calves, I'd recommend the following treatment plan:
Week 1 and 2: Massage 2x/wk
Week 3-6: Massage 1x/wk
Week 7+: Review progress and develop new treatment plan to suit
3) HOT COLD THERAPY
Sounds like fun, doesn't it?? (**not**).
Look at the bigger picture - how bad are your calves? What's it worth to you to be able to exercise without your calves getting ridiculously tight? Exactly, I figure it's worth the effort.
How do I do it?
When you shower after your training session or event, turn the shower to cold for 30 seconds, then back to hot for 30 seconds, and repeat this process 3 times. You can finish your shower as normal, and you get bonus points for additional stretching in the shower (careful you don't slip!)
After big events (e.g. running a half marathon), I'll fill the bathtub with ice and water, and alternate warm shower and "ice-bath" (literally!) for a more hardcore version.
Compression pants, or specific 'calf compression sleeves' can be used during exercise, or worn after a training session to aid recovery. Trial compression during or after a session, and find what works best for you.
Personally, I prefer using compression socks after a session, right after I've done a dose of HOT COLD THERAPY. I don't love the process, but I love the amazing difference it makes to recovery.
Everyones favourite (not) exercise (see video below).
Yes this might be boring, but so is life when your calves are sore and you can't exercise.
Dedicate 5 minutes to this every day for a month and you'll feel amazing improvements
There you go! 5 steps to dealing with tight calves.
Keep in mind this is general advice that applies to most people, but if you have a previous injury, or additional concerns, your tight calves may need an individual assessment and personalised advice.
If this is you, book in online to see a physiotherapist by clicking here.
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