Why is that when we start taking up a sport, for example, running, we only ever think of going running to get better at it?
Why do we think that to get better at running that we should just increase our miles or increase speed or gradient, to help us get better at running?
Why are we then left wondering why we keep getting injured?
Take for example, building a house, do we just chuck in some walls, plonk on a roof and then go TAH-DAH, no lots goes into building a house and the first thing we do is write a detailed plan, then we start with the foundations before we can even think of building a wall (I’m sure a few people would argue that there are quite a few builders who follow the TAH-DAH route). So why do we not take the same strategy with our training?
Injuries are a major part and parcel of training and taking part in activity but they do not have to happen all the time, there are things you can do to help prevent injuries. In my last article I spoke about training your Glutes to become a better runner and this we are going to look at your calves, and just like the rotor cuff, I can bet that you hardly train these, maybe a few calf raises now and then, true? Injuries are a huge challenge for all types of athlete, from professional to recreational athletes.
The calf muscle, on the back of the lower leg, is actually made up of two muscles:
The Gastrocnemius is the larger calf muscle, forming the bulge visible beneath the skin. The Gastrocnemius has two parts or “heads,” which together create its diamond shape.
The Soleus is a smaller, flat muscle that lies underneath the Gastrocnemius muscle.
Achilles Tendinosis – The Achilles, is the thickest and strongest tendon in the body and stretches from the back of the heel to about the middle of the calf. Achilles Tendinosis is from overuse from the constnat pounding that is experienced during running based activities.
Plantar Fasciitis – The Plantar Fascia, is a fibrous band of tissue that stretches from your heel to the underneath of the middle of your foot. This tissue supports the arch and also acts as a shock absorber. This pain can often be worse in the morning.
Ankle Joint Problems – Ankle sprains are are very common injury, and while you can sprain any ligament in your ankle, it is commonly the outside ligaments that sprain.
Shin Pain – Shin pain can be caused by one or more things. Typcially if the shin pain is due to inflammation, you will typically experience pain along the inside border of the Tibia (shin). This discomfort may decrease during the warm up but comes back after rest. If the pain increases during exercise and has a tight feeling then the problem may be Compartment Syndrome. If the pain comes on gradually and is made worse by exercise, then you could have a bone strain (stress reaction) and you may experience localised tenderness over the tibia.
Do you currently suffer with any of these? Always seek profession medical advice when treating any injury and pass on any information to your Personal Trainer, so that they can design a suitable program for you.
Increase in activity – Volume, mileage, speed or gradient
Decrease in recovery time between training sessions
Changes in surface – Trail to tarmac, flat to uneven
Change of footwear
Lack of conditioning – Weak calves, poor lower limb strength
Movement dysfunction – Poor Calf flexibility, restricted range of motion at the ankle or poor running technique
Increased body mass
Poor Balance and coordination
Previous Ankle injury – Especially if left untreated and left to do it’s own thing.
Exercises to help with injury reduction in the lower leg: For ease of reference, complete 15 reps for a total of 3 sets for each exercise.
Calf Raises (Gastrocnemius)
Stand with your feet of a step, balls of the feet on the edge and the heels hanging over the edge. Now in a controlled manner raise your heels as high as you can. Hold onto the wall or something to help your balance if needed. Hold for a moment and then slowly lower back into position.
Calf Raises (Soleus)
Sit on a bench and place your feet on a small step, with the balls of your feet on the edge of the step and your heels hanging over the edge. Now in a controlled manner raise your heels as high as you can. Hold for a moment and then slowly lower back into position.
You can vary these raises by the angle of your feet (see pic below) or by adding weight, either a dumbbell in your hand or barbell across your should when standing or a plate across your knees when seated.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms to your sides. Shift your weight onto the balls of your feet. Using only your ankles, jump repeatedly (not from bending your knees to generate the jump). Be sure to fully extend the ankles on each jump, trying to reach maximum height.
Single leg Balance:
Stand on one leg, without any support. Maintain that balance for as long as possible and repeat with the other leg. If you want to advance this technique then use a Bosu ball, a wobble board or have someone play catch with you.
So ask yourself why are you not introducing these little exercises into your leg routine? The benefits of having a stronger foundation can help you to get better, get faster, get fitter, less injured and able to push yourself better in each training session.
Remember always consult a medical professional when you have an injury and prior to starting any exercise plan. Please feel free to book a free consultation using the Book Me button below.