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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Fixing Ernie......1, 2, 3!

My best lifetime bud little "E" is struggling with a series of calf pulls that continually interrupt this years progress with his running. While I cannot fix his myriad of mental problems (just kidding!), I can help with this problem with a three pronged approach. Lets first talk about the problem. Ernie has had a series of calf strains, which are minor tears of his calf muscle, throughout this year. They have occurred in different places. While they are calls pulls or strains, the sad reality is that they are generally microscopic tears of muscle strands. These are generally minor tears, although they are painful as hell, cause you to often miss a week to ten days or so of running, and if not resolved, can return at more regular frequencies. The problem with the way that they heal, is that your body creates scar tissue to resolve the problem, and the scar tissue creates new problems of their own. The scar tissue doesn't stretch like muscle, so stresses to the calf can cause further tears all around the scar tissue because that tissue is stretched more than usual from being near the scar tissue. The scar tissue, if not made supple early after the injury heals, will be very difficult to break up later. Now there are three concurrent approaches that have to be taken to stop this. First, you have to stretch the entire muscle chain from lower back to achilles to reduce the load from being overly focused at the calf muscle. So these three stretches should be done at least twice a day. Once earlier in the day to loosen things up before the run, and a second time while muscles are warm after a run. The first is the lower back/buttock/piriformis. You lie on your back with one knee bent, the foot of the other leg placed on that bent knee, and gently pull and stretch bye pulling your knee toward your chest. The more you can angle the pull toward your opposite shoulder, the more you can feel the stretch in your butt and lower back.
Then, you stretch out the hammies.....Try and keep you knee just very slightly bent as we are very old. You should be able to feel the stretch in your hammies....
And then the calf and achilles with wall stretches. I do each leg separately, and then both legs together.
O.K., now that we have our basic stretches, we add strengthening. I do this three days a week at the gym standing in the stretching cage, but sometimes do them at home while holding onto the top of the couch or the kitchen counter. I only hold as gently as possible for balance. You may or may not need to. Just do as many as you can with each leg. I go very slowly to engage the entire upper and lower leg muscles, and NEVER go lower than my leg being parallel to the floor cause I have kranky old man knees! Try and keep your back as upright as possible and your head straight!
And finally, you have to break up all of that scar tissue. So little "E", I bought you a gift on amazon that will be shipped to your door next tuesday or wednesday. Now you should try and use this three times a day when you are watching TV or reading one of those car magazines. If done properly with good pressure, this should be uncomfortable. Work those calves hard for two or three minutes over the entire length of the calf down into the achilles. Also, if you hit a knot, do some cross friction work, ie going side to side hard with one of the balls on the stick. You can also use a knuckle and give it a good grind back and forth.
And finally, remember, just because something is symptom free DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT IS HEALED! I know you are not running as fast or as long as usual, but starting back with shorter runs and building up again is o.k. usually only takes about three weeks to get back in stride!!

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