In my first term at university, I put on a fair amount of weight. Going out in the week, drinking 10 pints, and grabbing a takeaway on the way home will do that to you.
Before university things were different. I'd never drink in the week, eat reasonably well, and be out playing football or going for a jog most days of the week. But the first term away from home, new (bad) habits set in, and it was tough to swerve an offer of a few beers, and miss the excitement of a new place and new people.
When I got home from the Christmas break that year, I stood on the scales and thought WTF. I didn't even notice that I'd gained something like 10 kg in the 3 months prior. My mum thought I looked 'healthier' - is that code for chunky monkey?
Anyway, when the new year began and I headed back down to campus and decided to join the gym. At that point, the university didn't have it's own gym but their was one close by that was pretty cheap. It was the first gym I'd ever been too, and at first I did feel a bit uncomfortable, especially in the changing rooms where it was seemingly OK for dudes to walk around bollock-naked, drying their nuts etc, with the sawing action I thought was only used in strip shows...
(Because someone had told me)
After a few months I had settled into my new routine, going to the gym most days of the week (sometimes during lectures I didn't care about) and quickly got into reasonable shape. Most of the workout involved cardio as I wanted to be rid of the beer/takeaway belly that had formed, seemingly overnight, during the final quarter of the previous year.
In the second year, I started playing football again 2/3 times each week, but still wanted to get to the gym and keep up with the running. I rarely jogged outside, and found the treadmill much less harsh on the lower limbs. The proof, if i needed any, came when I ran a half marathon at around this time having trained only on the treadmill. I could barely walk for a week after that run, even though I'd done the same distance in training and felt fine the next day just a week or two prior.
Throughout my twenty's and early thirties, I continued to gym regularly and play football multiple times each week. Overall I escaped any severe injury, but the reason I started writing this post was to discuss my knackered calves and ankles - very likely due to over-sporting, and non-ideal footwear, and an exercise which helped me a lot.
Throughout this period of reasonable/high activity, I found my ankle and calf muscles to be the weakest, most injury prone, and generally just the main limiter to getting the best out of my aerobic workouts. And having read countless guides which discuss warm up routines, warm down routines, frequent stretching, ice packs, heat packs, cold baths, massages, drinking plenty of water, protein shakes, potassium supplements, etc, I've tried the lot, and most more than a few times. And while all of the above have their place, i still had trouble with these muscles to the point it was making me angry.
Why the pain?
Common causes of calf pain are listed here as the following:
While i'm not discounting any of these (damn those heels!), i'd do think the main ones are likely to be muscle imbalance or weakness in the calves and dodgy Achilles tendons - probably related to the aforementioned.
Just thinking about Force equaling Mass multiplied by Acceleration and looking at my body shape and size, no wonder I've had issues. I have varied from 75kg to 85kg throughout my adult life, but my calves have always looked like couple of chicken drumsticks that wouldn't fill the stomach of a small child.
Seems totally illogical that they can support me at all.
I found the text below here and the studies suggest that somewhere between 3.5 - 7 times your body-weight can be put on the foot (and presumably the connecting muscles, tendons, and bones) while running.
For a person weighing 80kg or 176 pounds, that is a force somewhere between 616 and 1,232 pounds.
Can you imagine that weight being taking each time your foot hits the ground - totally insane!
Meet, the toe balance....
This girl makes it look easy and i recommend standing next to something for balance.
I'm not training, playing football, or running anywhere near as much these days but when I was, this exercise made a huge difference. What was often the case was that my calves would start to tighten after only a few minutes into exercise, and instead of stopping for a rest, I'd do the above instead. At first, this felt like the wrong thing to do as it would flipping hurt at times, but pushing through the pain for a minute or two, they'd start to feel better and I'd continue with the run. And the calves felt tight and stone-like again, I'd repeat the exercise in the video.
Over time the difference was noticeable. My chicken legs gained some muscle and I was certainly running in less pain. I do plan to get back at it as some point, although I'm guessing that my heart and lungs could well be the new limiting factor, at least to start with. What I will be doing though is stretching those calves and tendons and putting them through the above workout if/when things start to hurt.
Thanks for reading this free-write type blog, have a nice injury free day.