Saturday, July 31, 2010

Calf-Strengthening Workout for Runners

A reader of the blog, Wendy, motivated me to write this post and make the related video workout. Wendy contacted me and wanted to know what she could do for a "blown Achilles tendon" other than "bawling on the couch."

Wendy's situation is unfortunately pretty common among runners. When overworked, the Achilles will become inflamed which is usually tendonitis. If the inflammation isn't taken care of and the runner continues to work it, it can tear or rupture. Rest is usually the best thing when you're feeling soreness in the Achilles area, but if the pain is intense and/or continuous, you need to get an appointment with your sports doc and get a diagnosis and plan for how best to let it heal. -
Achilles problems usually are a result of problems with a group of muscles further up the leg—the calves(the gastrocnemius and the soleus). These two muscles run down the back of the lower leg and the Achilles tendon is what connects them to the heel bone. The calf muscles help propel you forward, but in runners the calves often tighten up causing the Achilles tendon to work a lot harder than it's supposed to. This extra work is what causes the tendonitis or in most severe cases, a tear or rupture.

Calf strengthening exercises and calf stretches are the best way to avoid Achilles tendon injuries. The following workout shows 5 different exercises that target your calves as well as two stretches. Once or twice a week pick 2 or 3 of the exercises and do 12-15 reps and 2-3 sets of each and before you know it you'll have calves that are working hard making you a stronger more efficient runner.




I heard back from Wendy the next day and she had good news. A trip to the physical therapist revealed it was some localized swelling and pain, but not a tear. A cortisone patch and some stretching exercises was prescribed. She'll be back running as soon as she can walk up and down the stairs with no pain. Yeah!

12 comments:

Mark U. said...

RunnerDude,

Very good video and blog post, thanks! If pictures are worth 'a thousand words' then well-produced and demonstrated videos such as yours are worth ten-thousand!

I've been plagued with Achilles Tendinitis/Tendinosis problems particularly over the past two years. While I've currently got that problem in control (thanks to progressively weighted standing eccentric stretches of the affected Achilles, and my new running stride having a more rapid cadence, somewhat shorter length and a forefoot/midfoot landing), I believe that additionally following your calf strengthening and stretching exercises will be very helpful.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Mark! Thanks man! Let me know how the workout goes for you!

Cynthia O'H said...

Thanks for posting this. My oldest is having some trouble strengthening his calf and ankle muscles; this gives me a few more ideas.

wendy_kresha@charter.net said...

This is really interesting and I am so glad you posted this, Thad! I have noticed calf cramps in the pool this week and I have never gotten these before! I was thinking that maybe it was because I was not intaking enough salt, but now it all makes sense! I am still not back up and running, but I can walk without limping. thanks so much for all of your help : )

RunnerDude said...

Hi Cynthia!The single-leg exercises are great for both. They really work all the little stabilizer muscles in the ankle as well as the calf.

RunnerDude said...

Hi Wendy! You were truly an inspiration for the post. Sorry you were injured, but glad it wasn't as bad as you thought. Speedy recovery!!

onelittletrigirl said...

this is huge for me! coming off my hip injury, my calves decided they did not want to be my friend! I have been struggling all summer- I am looking forward to trying all of this advice out. Thanks again!

Chad said...

http://runningfool-ootaynee.blogspot.com/

Hey Runnerdude thanks for this, I will be forwarding it to my friend who has been struggling with Achille's issues lately.

RunnerDude said...

Hi onelittletrigirl! Keep me posted on how the workouts go!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Chad! Hope it helps your friend! Keep me posted.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the tips. About 15 years ago, I took up treadmill walking and loved it..lost 40 pounds in about 8 months, but also walked my way into a double case of heel tendonitis. I gave away the treadmill, gained the weight back and now am am abt. 200 lbs.(female, 5 ft. 3")I am going to try and strengthen the calves, so I can get back into walking. There is hope!
S. Rowe, Livonia, MI

KK said...

Runner Dude -

Excellent video! Thanks so much for a thoughtful, well put together sequence of exercises.

Happy running, all! :)
KK