Training: Calf Soreness

Calf soreness is a rather common occurrence but not a standard one by any means. Some get it and others don’t. It often appears at the beginning of the learning process in the Pose Method of running and ‘bothers’ the runner for around 2 weeks while he or she is adapting to the new neuromuscular coordination and to the new regime of muscle loading.

Is it possible to avoid this? Yes. And many do by following the recommended route of preparation instead of just diving in. Others have the luxury of skipping it simply due to already being prepared more or less. For example, if jumping rope is a normal routine for you, chances are you won’t suffer the calf soreness when transitioning to pose running.

How It Happens

The fact of having calf soreness (muscle strain) is the first indication of getting DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) syndrome, which appears 12 to 48 hours after exercising and is characterized by tenderness and stiffness of muscles. The discomfort is caused by micro-tears of muscle tissue for a simple reason – resisting gravity.

The mechanics of the injury are very simple. During landing on support the body moves forward and down towards the ground. The final muscle groups responsible for accepting the body weight are lower leg and foot muscles, and calves are the strongest ones of them.

The main biomechanical goal of the body movement over the support is to provide redirection from the downward-forward flow to upward-forward one without losing momentum and horizontal velocity and even try to gain a little there.

So, in the Pose Method this is achieved by landing the foot close to the point of projection of the General Center of Mass (GCM) on the ground, and proceeding with falling forward with minimum or no braking, i.e. maintain the Pose position while falling forward and quickly change support.

The downward movement of body weight is supposed to be finished before the beginning of falling forward. But very often calves resist this downward movement by getting tense, which is caused by our desire to hold the heel in a certain position and prevent the foot from touching the ground. Why is this happening? The reasons could be different: wrong understanding and overdoing of the command to keep the body weight on balls of the feet, another one could be attempting the push off. It could be done on the conscious or subconscious level, but the result is always the same – overloading the calf muscles.

Biomechanical basis of it consists of counteraction of two forces, gravity and muscles activity, resisting the body weight, working simultaneously in the opposite directions. Who wins and who loses is not difficult to guess. The muscles suffer the consequences.

The downward movement of body weight is finished when the body’s general center of mass is passing over the ball of the foot on support. The logical consequence of it is the following: the faster the body passes through the vertical line over the ball of the foot, the faster the calf muscles are released from the body weight load. If during the downward movement of the body the calf muscles are not active by holding or pushing the body weight, then they receive less loading.

How to Avoid Calf Soreness

  1. Don’t put too much effort into staying on the ball of the foot.
  2. Don’t hold the heel above the ground, let it touch the ground and allow your ankle to move freely. The point is to keep your body weight on your forefoot.
  3. Don’t do any active propulsion or push off with the leg and the foot. Keep your perception of the foot as being not loaded, but on the opposite, as getting unloaded, when you start running.
  4. Do concentrate only on the pulling action of the foot from the ground.

How to Prevent It

  1. Jump rope (lift feet, don’t push) on regular basis before you start implementing the Pose into your running. Do it barefoot and in shoes to get different perception of foot touching down. Stay relaxed. Start with the minimal number of jumps to give yourself time to get used to it and gradually increase the number of reps.
  2. Do the prescribed running drills and strength exercises. If you want to follow a program – try the Beginner’s Guide to Pose Running where we provide a structured approach & detailed instructions with a specific training schedule.

How to Fix It If You Got It

As the saying goes – this too shall pass. The temporary discomfort will go away on it’s own. It will do so faster if you help it of course.

  1. Use the above recommendations on preventing and avoiding
  2. Do a warm/hot lower leg or full body bath with sea or Epsom salt
  3. Don’t ice
  4. Massage

Note: Light runs uphill or up the stairs are better and more effective than what’s called ‘calf raises’, a somewhat forceful exercises that can do damage to your calf muscle.

Keep in mind the difference between discomfort and pain. This applies to every situation where we deal with pain. You have to be honest with yourself to properly assess your condition.

1. Temporary discomfort is not the same as pain

Discomfort is experienced when we do something new, our muscles are not used to that type of loading, it feels a bit straining but bearable.

Pain is a much higher degree of discomfort and it’s a different ball game. The cringe, the grimace, the limp, etc should be your indicators. Pain is a signal that you crossed the line, you’ve done wrong (simply stated).

2. Discomfort goes away on its own, pain doesn’t.

While discomfort will disappear on it’s own typically within the two weeks window or less, the pain will either stay or keep rearing its ugly head. Pain needs to be addressed appropriately and in timely manner. Your technique, your movement needs to be reevaluated and corrected.

It is very useful to do short runs barefoot to learn the proper neuromuscular coordination and to feel relaxation and looseness of the support foot and ankle. Jumps with the rope on one or both legs reproducing the Pose stance are good as well. These exercises teach you to synchronize the body weight moving down with relaxation of your calves. Start from these exercises and move on to faster and longer running without calf soreness.

About the Author

Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.
[ Click here to learn more ]

CONTINUING EDUCATION + LIVE SEMINARS + LOCAL CLASSES

Pose Method® 2-Day Educational Seminar is approved for 16 contact hours towards continuing education for Certified CrossFit Trainers and Physical Therapists. Athletes and parents of school age children are encouraged to attend.

The Pose Method® system is a combination of online learning, live seminars and local classes making it the most effective solution available to health and fitness professionals as well as anyone who enjoys an active lifestyle.

Injuries: To Ice or Not

Icing was always a part of athletes’ life, but never to the extremes it is today. It almost seems to be the most recommended treatment for injuries, especially so in running. One can find heat application being recommended also, but not nearly as much as it should be and sometimes not for the right reasons. To say the least about strength exercises recovery, massage and such.

Icing or cold therapy with ice is recommended primarily for numbing the pain and reducing the swelling. Since pain is our body’s signal that there is a problem and swelling is reduced by freezing the tissue, in reality icing does nothing more than masking the problem and deflecting your attention. Unless there is an open wound and blood needs to be stopped or there is a need to drop the body temperature (fever, overheating), application of ice to a human body is really not a good idea.

While majority of us agree that icing does not carry any healing qualities, some go as far as to state that icing helps with overuse injuries and painful joints. To stop the overuse injuries one should examine his technique and training, applying an ice-pack won’t make technical problems go away. Your joints will do better, when treated with warmth. The reality is that cold from ice does not penetrate deeper, than the top layer of your muscles, directly under your skin. A human body has to maintain a certain temperature to live. If the temperature drops below that – the body stops functioning. So if icing could really reach your joints to ice them, you’d be in trouble and have some dead tissue on your body.

 

 

Living tissue does better with warmer temperatures. It heals better and faster and it weathers the distress of an injury better. Application of ice to the injured area might temporarily relieve you from feeling pain and freeze the tissue to stop the blood flow to reduce the swelling, but that will also stop the healing process. In order to heal itself, your body needs the blood to flow through the injured area. Strangely enough, today, it is considered a bad thing by many. But why would anyone get in the way of healing their injuries? Why first stop the natural healing by freezing everything with ice and then try to artificially re-initiate it with medicine? Why not do it right from the beginning?

Next time you have an inflammation, instead of icing it, try applying a flat-cut piece of room temperature raw potato slice to the affected area or a warm compress soaked in apple cider vinegar. If you wish to take any medicine – take one aspirin. Next time you get a bruise, rub it immediately through the pain instead of applying ice, and you will notice that the pain associated with the bruise will lessen a lot quicker than usual and the skin discoloration will be a lot less, if it happens at all.

It will serve you well to always remember that icing has a rather narrow purpose and limited usage, and you can absolutely do without it. As a matter of fact you will help speed up your healing if you skip the “ice therapy”. Next time you have an injury, and let’s hope that it doesn’t happen, but if it does, don’t ice it. Instead take care of it with one of the treatments described above and then take a hot bath with apple cider vinegar or go to sauna (which has always been hugely popular in Russian and European athletic circles) before calling it a day.

There are many ways to deal with injuries and application of ice is just one, small and rather insignificant step that is not necessary as often as it is recommended nowadays. Unless your injury was caused by a random accident like hitting something, or tripping and falling, your next move is to break the unproductive cycle of repeating your mistakes and address errors in your technique, that are causing your injuries instead of numbing the pain and hoping the injures would just go away.

 

About the Author

Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.
[ Click here to learn more ]

CONTINUING EDUCATION + LIVE SEMINARS + LOCAL CLASSES

Pose Method® 2-Day Educational Seminar is approved for 16 contact hours towards continuing education for Certified CrossFit Trainers and Physical Therapists. Athletes and parents of school age children are encouraged to attend.

The Pose Method® system is a combination of online learning, live seminars and local classes making it the most effective solution available to health and fitness professionals as well as anyone who enjoys an active lifestyle.

Injuries: Achilles Tendinitis – What Is The Problem?

Achilles Tendinitis, a common injury for lots of people, especially runners. It deprives them not only of pleasure of running, but also influences their entire daily experience. They spend a lot of money, time and effort to “cure” themselves from this painful injury to be able to continue doing what they love, i.e. running, but in many cases traditional medicine and approach completely fail them. And even in cases where a temporary relief is experienced, it is short-lived and the injury rears its ugly face again and again. A surgery, that is quite costly and comes with many promises but no guarantees, is also usually a futile attempt.

Cause

Feel free to google what’s considered the standard list of causes – running, walking, excessive exercising, etc. But let’s look the truth in the eye. Is it really WHAT we do that is at the root of the issue? Or how much of the activity that we do that we blame for overloading? Sure, there is something to be said about being overly enthusiastic and doing too much too soon without adequate preparation, but what about cases when seasoned runners, well prepared and adequately strong athletes sustain this injury? We need to be honest with ourselves – it is HOW we do it that causes us to get injured.

In my opinion, the main reason of Achilles tendon overloading is either initial absence of or gradual deterioration of coordination of movement when running. This leads to destruction of neuromuscular coordination and then to overloading of muscles and tendons.

Injury Prevention with the Pose Method

A comprehensive look at the most common running injuries. This series breaks down the causes and types of pain along with treatment options for a fast recovery.

And as the cause so is the solution.

Solution

Without disputing the efficiency of any approach to solving the Achilles tendinitis problem, I want to make it clear that it’ll never be really solved unless we address the main cause of the problem – the skill of movement, the skill of running, the running technique i.e. how we run.

I did a lot of field work in running for many years and achieved good results just by changing the way my students run. Mainly, by eliminating the idea of pushing off. This approach is supported by studies as well, however many who coach running to others are not aware of such advances in science, and to top that of, people that like to run, treat running as something that does not require skill development, but only speed and endurance. Yet, how can we get faster and better if the skill is lacking?

So the solution is simple, but the implementation and use might take a bit of getting used to. There is no push off action by the leg during support time, but only rebounding from the ground, based on elastic component of muscles’ work. In Pose Method this understanding was the cornerstone of running technique development. No push off, no concentric muscle work, just a pull of the support foot from the ground, which fully integrates muscle coordination and takes off the load off the Achilles Tendon.

The solution to this problem, from the Pose Method point of view, lies in learning to run proper, through adoption of specific philosophy, concepts and drills to perform the specific action of pulling the foot from the ground and on time, after all, timing is everything.

Running Technique

Technique work is present in every athletic activity except for running. So you simply need to accept the fact that in order to run or to run better and without common injuries you need to work on your technique. To think any other way is simply unwise.

Pose Running Drills

You can find specific drills for pulling action in the book “The Pose Method of Running”, chapter 24, pp.123-130. You also need to strengthen your hamstring for this matter (“Hamstring and Hips Exercises” book, pp.10, ex.# 1,2,3,4,5,7,8,9,10,11,12). In order to unload your feet you need to develop strong muscles in the hips area. I would highly recommend specific exercises for this from the same “Hamstring and Hips Exercises” book, pp.19-26, #1 to 24 in progression.

Here are a couple of drills that you will find useful and could get started with.

The Pony

Stand in the Running Pose, both knees slightly bent, the ankle of the non-support foot slightly elevated. Simultaneously lift the ankle of the support foot while allowing your body weight to shift to the opposite leg, which is relaxed and falling. Sounds simple, doesn’t it. It is, but you have to focus on the following sensations in order to it properly:

  1. Initiate every movement by lifting the support leg, not by pushing down on the non-support leg;
  2. Lift the support ankle vertically, with neither forward or backward direction;
  3. Shift your weight without inducing any muscular tension;
  4. Allow the non-support leg to fall.

Foot Tapping

This drill emphasizes vertical leg action (Fig. 24.5). Many people think of “running” as an action that begins with lifting the knees and then driving forward. In fact, that’s the last thing you want to do. Lifting the knees put tension on the quadriceps and takes you completely out of the Running Pose. Instead, you want to lift the ankle, vertically, so that the ankle, hip, shoulder and head remain in a straight line. So instead of lifting the knee, you want to lift the ankle. This prevents your foot from getting out in front of the body and allows the leg to bend quickly with minimal muscular force.

Conclusion

The good news here is that unless the pain is severe you can continue running as long as you remember that you should stop immediately when you feel that your running technique deteriorates. As long as you run proper, your pain will be gradually reducing. This system never failed me during my long work in the running field.

About the Author

Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.
[ Click here to learn more ]