If you’ve been to my blog over the last couple months, you may have noticed a theme of on and off calf tightness and pain. Despite plenty of stretching, icing and rolling I couldn’t seem to make it really go away. It would start feeling better, but then strike again forcing me to take extra rest days, cut a long run short or just be a small annoyance along the run.
After running through pain for way too long and landing myself in some pretty serious physical therapy last year forcing me to defer my entry for the Marine Corps Marathon, I decided to be proactive this time and not let it turn into a serious injury. I believe they call this learning!
I got myself an appointment to see my doctor and a referral to Fast Track Physical Therapy out at the Endurance Athlete Center in Falls Church. I love this place – they work wonders and understand athletes. I met with Kerri on Monday for my first session, explained to her my issues and after an assessment she talked me through what we could do to get me in the best possible shape for a successful marathon in two weeks. (Just about one week now…eek!)
She immediately noticed my limited ankle mobility after having me attempt a squat, which was later confirmed when she measured my dorsiflexion for each foot (ability to pull the foot upward) at five degrees. Normal is about 20 degrees. She also found some serious knots while doing soft tissue work. Ouch! I did my best not to yelp while lying on the table for this.
For Tuesday’s appointment we planned that I would run there – 6 miles – so she could rule out something more serious like compartment syndrome and confirm it was just calf strains. This would be my last run before race day. I’d come back for another session Thursday and three next week where I would do some running drills to work on my form and more soft tissue work. Aside from that, the rest of the my workouts will be on the elliptical or water running along with a set of exercises and stretches to loosen me up. (Only having slight panic attacks about this!)
Old picture…but this is one I’ll be doing a lot more of until race day.
On Tuesday we did a video run analysis and I could immediately pinpoint some of my issues before Kerri even started to break things down. I’m getting airtime mid stride – full on both feet off the ground at the same time…talk about inefficient. I’m landing way out in front of my body and practically on my toes. I’ve always been a mid-foot striker, but now I’m up on my forefoot and barely touching my heel to the ground making my calves push me through my runs rather than pulling my legs through with my glutes. We even noticed that hip drop that gave me so many problems last year creeping back in. Thankfully it was nowhere near what it was last year, but still disappointing given how hard I worked to get rid of that.
Retooling my entire running form in the final two weeks before my goal marathon would be difficult and would likely turn me into a headcase during the race. Instead we’re focusing on a few small things and practicing them at each session. I’m working on shortening my stride, staying off my toes so I land on my midfoot instead and RELAXING. As I try to change things I keep tightening up my feet and calves causing even more stress. She suggested checking in with myself each time I pass a mile marker as a good way to make sure I’m on the right track.
Once race day is over we can work on addressing some of the other issues and I might have to give up my beloved Newtons, but until then I’m going to keep it simple and avoid impact so I’m ready to go on race day. Here I come Marine Corps Marathon! (By the way, super relieved it’s still on!)
From MCM’s Facebook Page today making my day…
The taper is always tough, but without being able to run it’s definitely a test of my mental strength to stay confident.
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve ever had to substitute other exercises for running during your taper. How’d it go?
Hope everyone is having a great fall marathon season!
I suffer from tight calves, always have and I’m fairly certain I always will. I know the pain of having the knots worked out of the calf too. It is a great feeling a couple of days later when the pain wears off though.
I’m nowhere near marathon distance standard, but I know I’m going to have to see someone about my running if i want to continue pushing myself. I’ll be interested to find out what you discover through your therapy too.
Good luck with the marathon.
Thank you! I’d really recommend seeing someone. Last year when I first went for a much more serious injury I’d been running through pain for so long I just started to think running was supposed to hurt. It’s amazing what they can do when you have someone who really knows runners objectively look at an injury/how you’re running.
I took about a week off after my last big run (22?) before MCM last year. I was having hip issues (that still aren’t completely resolved) but the rest helped!
I too have serious hip drop problems, especially on my right side. How did you adjust your form to fix that?
I have a big regimen of hip/glute exercises to do from my PT, but I’m not totally sure how to translate the strength I’m building into my running. My coworker with the same problem was told to focus on engaging her glutes every so often during a run and that would eventually translate to less hip drop.
Glad to hear the rest helped!
The hip drop is the worst…I would not have believed I was even doing it so badly if they didn’t have it on video!
I had reached a point last year where my glutes were completely shut down and not firing at all, so I had that whole list of hip/glute exercises too, but for translating it to the run, focusing on engaging my glutes while running like you mentioned was the main thing for me in getting rid of the hip drop. Another indicator for me was my arm swing. My arm would swing across my body in an effort to compensate for the hip drop to help me balance, so every once in a while I’d check in on that to see if I was hip dropping again. I stopped wearing headphones on my outdoor runs too, so I could pay more attention to those things and notice when my form was starting to slip. Picking up my turnover helped get rid of it too, so I’d occasionally repeat in my head quick stride, quick stride and that seemed to help.
I obviously didn’t make it come naturally though since it’s creeping back in, but I think if I start reminding myself to check those things again I’ll get back on track.
Proactive PT — so simple, but so smart! Maybe I wouldn’t be so darn injury prone! lol
Ha, yes, took me a long time to learn that lesson.
We’re so hard headed!