Combating calf muscle tightness?: So, I'll start... - Couch to 5K

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Combating calf muscle tightness?

kirstyfbates profile image

So, I'll start with the good news: I've completed my W1R3. I haven't yet managed to run for the full 8 minutes, but each time I've ran I've made more and more progress each time. This time, I ran for 6.5 minutes, with one lot of thirty seconds' running forfeited simply because I had to re-tie my shoelace.

The problem I'm having is with my calf muscles. In short, they feel like they're made of rocks. I feel it primarily down the front of my shins when I'm running, albeit it's spread now to well... everywhere. I stretch as soon as I get home, but I'll admit -- not for very long. Normally, I'm too preoccupied with flopping down onto my sofa, ha.

In between running days, I walk a lot. Yesterday, for instance, I walked for 11km at a leisurely pace, and eventually managed to 'walk off' the tightness, only for it to return the second I started running again today.

I'm also concerned that maybe it's my 'running style', because I'm pretty sure the way I run is the only way I know how, and it's well, a very slow shuffle. Like, very slow. Plus, the more tired I get, the more I tend to hardly pick my feet up off the floor -- or so it seems. I'm really hoping that's not what is adding extra strain onto my lower legs.

Does anyone have any advice? Is it simply that I should stretch more? If so, how can I focus the attention on my calves to alleviate their suffering?

Thank you!

12 Replies
Patrick1942 profile image

Hi, please can we check, you say W1 R3 and running 8 minutes, is that correct?

Rignold profile image
Rignold in reply to Patrick1942

8 sets of 60 seconds = 8 minutes

Yes, I say '8 minutes' to reference the structure of the workout, in that in total you run for 8 minutes by completing 8 sets of 60 seconds. ... Not that I was running for a solid 8 minutes -- I am very far away from that! Apologies if I wasn't more clear!

Definitely not a function of runing slowly. Slow is good. Very slow is even better. Your shin problems are just a consequence of the muscles being unused to the strain of the exercise you are putting on them. Note that is 'not used to', not 'incapable of'. It will get better as your legs get stronger, although it won't be overnight.

Stretching will help, doing some leg strengthening exercises will help ( calf raises, heel drops - have a Google and you will find loads of tutorials, and its never to early to invest in a foam roller and discover your inner masochist - foam rolling is very good for shin splints and tightness.  These are all good habits to get into early in your running career.

And the most important advice - if it hurts, back off a little. Take an extra rest day, put an icepack on as soon as you finish your run. Take some ibuprofen to reduce the swelling of the muscle sheath. Take an extra day between every run for a while if needs be, but just be consistent. Your body will adapt very well if you let it.

kirstyfbates profile image
kirstyfbates in reply to Rignold

Thank you so much for this, Rignold. 

I am very relieved to hear that it is simply a case of being a beginner, and it makes me ever the more determined to continue, so as I can strengthen my legs!

I will be sure to look into some stretching exercises, and I had no idea about foam rollers until you mentioned them! I will certainly give them a go in the hope they will combat the tightness I am experiencing.

At the moment, I take one rest day between each run -- but I feel as though I can adapt my schedule more so as the runs are distributed more across the week. I definitely felt a great satisfaction from walking off the tightness yesterday though, and I'd like to continue with my walking as a way to improve my general health and fitness. I like to walk to a point where it feels as though my legs have completely loosened up, and I feel as though I'm practically in overdrive! One day I'm hoping I can experience the same sensation with running!

Thanks again for your help!

JoolieB1 profile image

I would recommend Strenth and flex exercises on rest days,M that has improved my legs somewhat.  The other thing for sore shins is to run on soft ground, grass is the very best.  It does work the whole leg whereas hard surfaces pound the shins and knees.  It is much more fun too.  Other than that, I can remember my legs aching when I was working my ways through the weeks, all part of the process.  I did have to drop all other exercise on rest days to get to graduation and really rested my legs with a nice warm blanket

Thank you, Joolie! I'm glad to hear it's all part of the process and that I'm not doing anything wrong!

What you wrote about the ground surface also makes a lot of sense to me. Currently, I live 750m above sea-level, in a valley between a number of mountains, and only 250km away from The Pyrenese, so as you can imagine -- the ground here is very up-and-down, and the majority of it is well, gravel paths, mud, and rocks. (There is little civilisation!) The views here are incredible, and I have a particularly favourite circular route around the nearby valleys which helps me to enjoy my workouts a lot. I suppose the only downside is that all those rugged paths may be having a worse effect on my legs!

davelinks profile image
davelinksGraduate in reply to kirstyfbates

Kristy, sounds like you live in a lovely place with great views! With the terrain you are running on, just make sure you have a pair of good cushioning running shoe's..😊

catorezzi profile image

I have been really struggling with my calves the last few weeks. I do find I can run it off but getting going is really painful! I have been seeing a sports massage therapist and her advice was to do calf stretches 3 times a day (it does help). I have also got a foam roller which is so painful to use but it does a job! A tennis ball works just as well to really knead those muscles. Another thing you can do is go to somewhere like Sweatshop and they check how you run. They can mould insoles to your feet (£45) and give you some tips and advice. I changed my trainers too which as massively helped but depends on how much money you want to spend. Good luck though, I know how sore it can be!

JoolieB1 profile image

I had a problem with injury after graduating because I tried to follow a 10k programme straight after graduating which was not right for me.  I had also been running on hard surfaces a lot so my knees and shins had taken a hammering.  I decided to find grass for every run.  My legs are good now but I till try to find soft ground for my weekly long run.  Strange, my legs get tired all over because of all the adjustments to different angles on the ground and the sheer effort of getting through long grass, transferring to mud etc but although my muscles work harder, my shins and knee joints aren't sore or stiff.  I love running off road anyway, feels like an adventure somehow.  Love the sound of your runs. Hills were tricky for me but since graduating, I just have a 1-2-3-4 pace and try to plod on the flat, plod down hills, plod up too - slow but get where I need to go!

Try to relax as much as u can when running, focus on relaxing your calf muscles, ankles, relax your shoulders and breathe slowly and deeply.  It is challenging but the programme does work

I was going to say heel drops too. You stand with just your toes and ball of your foot on a step (hold on to something) then lower your heels slowly so they are lower than your toes then slowly lift up again until you are standing on tiptoes on the edge of the step. I do these at work while waiting for the copier !

Hi I'm new too, I'm on W1R2. I give you huge Kudos for sticking with it. Today my calves hurt like never before. I planned some housekeeping/organizing for when I returned home so I wouldn't crash n turn in to a sloth. It helped the muscle aches but holy Hanna, I'm positive some unseen creature was slowly tearing the flesh from my calves.  In desperation for relief I looked for info on why they hurt. I found this link  with stretching tips.

The pain came back within an hour of doing them the first time so I repeated it this afternoon, evening and now right before heading to bed. I am still stiff but much better. Maybe it will help you. Worth a try.

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