I have never been able to easily touch my toes. Even when I was young and running the fastest times of my life, touching my toes was quite an ordeal. On many occasions, I have managed to overstretch and not be able to reach peak performance just because I wanted to touch my toes. Its probably because of my calves.
I have had several doctors tell me that my calves are too short. I went to an orthopedic specialist for my knee problems. He said that my knees would always be bad because of my short calves. He prescribed short mileage and no hills. Seriously? This is what you tell a cross country and road runner? You know I am not going to follow that advice, don’t you Doc?
Despite my issues with short, tight calf muscles, I put in many long runs training for marathons and I do hill work to get faster. The question is not whether or not to do these things. The question is how to manage the associated difficulties.
The things that everyone does, I need to do more carefully and better. Warm-up, stretch, start slow and ease into a rhythm. That is my routine when I am doing it right. Unfortunately, I lost my momentum on that and have been having difficulties for a few weeks. First, it was the soreness stemming from metabolic accumulation. Lactic acid and other waste products were not being removed as fast as they were being produced. I slowed down my running, but the tightness this caused continued the back-up.
I finally started stretching more carefully again and that begin to help. Unfortunately, I was so excited by the results that I became overzealous about stretching. My stretching fixed one problem and caused another. The tightness in my lower calves went away, but my plantar fasciitis was activated. I have faced this nemesis before, which may also possibly be related to my short calves.
My attention shifted to easing the pain and doing stretches for my plantar fasciitis. There are several great stretches, but I again went too far, too fast. Now I am nursing a sore spot at the bottom of my Achilles tendon on both legs.
This whole situation is a lot like the wreck that my daughter had on a rainy, winding road. She had let the car go a little to far towards the side of the road and over-corrected a little bit. The car was now over the yellow line with a car quickly approaching from the other direction. She finally ended up hitting a tree on the side of the road that she first tried to avoid.
The lesson that my daughter and I have both learned is that over-correcting to avoid a slight problem can lead to a much larger problem! A better strategy is to make small changes in your routine in order to correct problems. If a problem comes on gradually, the solution and healing process will also be gradual. Lesson learned!
Now, if I can follow my own advice, I should be running without any of these issues in about a week. Patience is not just a virtue. It is a necessity.