My calves are the weakest link.......

Discussion in 'Chapters' started by James Snook, Oct 28, 2014.

  1. James Snook

    James Snook Barefooters
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    Having taken to barefoot running in the last few months, I made sure I was properly prepped before getting started.

    I read the Ken Bob book, then started with a run of only 200m. I have progressed very slowly up to about 3 miles; however I am getting a persistent problem which I am hoping you may be able to help with.

    Initially my calves were very tight following converting to barefooting. This passed a little bit over time, but as I have increased my mileage (and I am very careful never to increase by more than 10% week on week) the calf ache has come back.

    They do not hurt at all when I am running, just once I have stopped they get extremely tight and feel like they are going to cramp up (which they sometimes do in the night)

    Any advice at all will be very graciously received.

    Thanks

    James (Barefoot Snook)
     
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  2. romalisha

    romalisha Barefooters
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    Hey James,

    Congratulations on your progress, sounds like you are doing well and still managing to be very sensible at the same time - a rare achievement in transitioning! But don't underestimate how long it can take for your body to adapt to the changing demands you are putting on it. Maybe stop increasing mileage for a while and let the adaptation process catch up. Good posture is vital to avoiding strain, so check you are upright (hips directly under shoulders, chin slightly tucked), and your feet are landing soft and flat with relaxed ankles under your centre of gravity; not ahead of it (video yourself if you can), as landing forefoot with rigid ankle on an extended leg is a big strain on calf, achilles and plantar fascia. And also be aware of using your hamstrings to lift your feet from the ground rather than using calves to push off forwards, especially at higher speeds. Drill hamstring pulls.

    Around running, try focusing on eccentric calf work (eg stand on one leg on a step, raise the heel and then slowly drop it down as low as you can to stretch the calf out under load, repeat, slow and controlled), soft tissue work eg with tennis ball or foam roller. Look up Romanov's 'pose' shape and drill that shape standing on the spot one leg, switching to the other leg cleanly and with a swift hamstring pull, and repeat. This will help to educate the neural pathways. Also hydration and electrolytes for night cramps, though I do wonder if the cramps are caused by the aftermath of inappropriate loading, when your feet are forced into plantarflexion as you sleep.

    This is my 2p worth, just some suggestions to consider. I hope it may be of some use, though it is difficult to know exactly what the issue is without seeing you run.

    Keep up the good work, you will get it sorted :)
     
  3. Tedlet

    Tedlet Barefooters
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    I get that too!
    Sorry James, I know that doesn't really help -but I can at least share your frustration...
     
  4. James Snook

    James Snook Barefooters
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    Thank you very much romalisha for your detailed reply.

    Have been out today and done 3km and am still getting the calf issues. I was worried it might be to do with my technique, so I really concentrated on lifting my foot with my hamstring rather than pushing off with my toes. My feet feel better for it, but the calves still seem to have taken a hammering. It's in the lower part of my calf rather than the upper part, so am sure that this just needs adapting.

    Will try the drills that you have suggested, keep going slowly and hopefully things will improve.

    Have booked the Brighton Marathon in April 2015, so hopefully I will be able to start increasing my mileage soon or it will be a touch old slog round there. Am considering alternating between shoes and no shoes, although in my heart I know this is probably the wrong approach.

    It's clearly not an exact science all this! Great fun though :)

     
  5. M-Squared

    M-Squared Barefooters
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    James,

    Firstly my admiration for your barefoot purism! I'm still generally running in Vivobarefoot TrailFreaks.

    Romalisha's notes that you need to do slightly more than just run and all of her advise is really useful. I've found you need to develop both a confident upright posture and develop your calves through deep squat exercises and jumping on the spot at a 180 cadence kissing the heels building up over time. These need to be regulated and to be honest you may find it good to find a coach (happy to recommend if needs be).

    My own recent reminder came from running a competitive 10k. In training I'd had few issues with calf stress running up to 12k in Vivos but the faster pace of the race (8 minutes faster than my general speed) left me with stress in both calves. This eased in three to four days and hasn't recurred ... but I remain aware that my calves still need more work!

    You mention pushing off! PLEASE DON'T!!!!!! Bend your knees and lift! The momentum comes from your core and feet should fall as lightly as they can ... Or so I find!

    Lastly, remember there is no right for everyone way! You need to concentrate on what feels right for you!

    Martin
     

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  6. James Snook

    James Snook Barefooters
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    Thank you for your reply Martin, and rest assured I am definitely doing all I can to avoid pushing off with my toes.

    I think a barefoot running coach wouldn't be a bad idea. I live down in Portsmouth. If you could recommended somebody that would be great.

    Will keep up the exercises, rest a few days then try again.

    James
     
  7. paulbeales

    paulbeales Barefooters
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    Hi James,

    You could try checking out the Members Map and look for other members in your area? I know Tim Gay is in your area. Maybe running with another BFer and comparing notes might help instead of paying for a coach ;)

    Are you touching down at all with your heels after landing forefoot or midfoot? If you aren't this might explain the strain you are putting on your calves?

    Cheers,

    Paul
    .
     
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  8. James Snook

    James Snook Barefooters
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    Thanks Paul, will take a peek at the Members Map in a bit and see who I can locate.

    I do have some positive news from tonight. I managed to run 3k with relatively little calf pain. There is two minor problems with this though.

    1 - It was on a treadmill
    2- I had shoes on.

    I would like to caveat this with the fact that they are very very flat Inov-8 shoes, I used a good quality forefoot landing the whole time and made sure to keep my cadence as high.

    I think that mixing up a bit of running in shoes, a bit of running in my Luna sandals and a bit of barefooting is definitely going to be the way forward for me. That being said, my target is the Brighton Marathon and I definitely intend on competing barefooted if I can.

    Onwards and upwards. Thanks again to all who have posted advice on my thread. I really do appreciate it.

    James

     
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  9. Amit Baswal

    Amit Baswal Barefooters
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    Hi James,
    First of all congratulation on your barefoot journey so far, this is surely a step in a right direction.
    I would share my own experience with you and it might or might not help you. When I started running barefoot for the first time my calves were not my strongest point and there was a time when I found it really hard walking up/down on steps after a barefoot 5k run. Then one day while I was browsing for help on the Internet I found some really interesting videos on calf rolling massage and calf strengthening exercises. I bought foam roller and did calf rolling on it 5 times a week and topped it up with 5-10 minutes squats 4 times a week. Over a period of 5-6 months my calves strength improved and they are one of my strong muscles now. I recently did Bournemouth marathon barefoot and didn't have any problems with my calves or feet(no blisters!). Though I did feel right on my shoulders at the end of the marathon, guess I need to find some exercises for shoulder now! I was walking alright after the marathon and walked back home and then at work next day. Some of my friends who ran with shoes took day off after the marathon to recover.
    Anyways, I would recommend calf rolling massage as a first step towards strong calf muscles and go barefoot as much as possible.

    Good luck and keep us posted!

    Cheers,
    Amit
     
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  10. James Snook

    James Snook Barefooters
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    Thank you Amit. Following some excellent advice on this forum from yourself and others, I am now in a regular pattern of foam rolling and using "the stick" for massage. I am also doing concentric calf raises on a daily basis to work on strengthening my calves. Have only been at it for a few days; however I am already feeling the difference.

    Combined with this I attend Triathlon specific training on a Monday and Wednesday (this is mobility work, swimming, run and bike) so I am hoping that putting all this together I will start to see improvements in my barefooting fairly quickly.

    Am going to try my first 5k Parkrun in a few weeks time. Will let you know how I get on.

    James



     
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