It has been just over one year since my last calf muscle injury. The blog post I made on the subject is the #1 post for my humble blog, as it pops up as a search result thanks to Google. As regular readers (I have at least 2) may know, I surf quite a bit - working 5 minutes away from the beach lets me use my lunch hour to get some water time in.
While I love surfing, it doesn't do much to stretch out or strengthen my lower body (however, it is very good for the upper body). So, I decided to look around for an adult soccer league to join that would be good exercise for my legs. Luckily, I found a men's over-35 team in Carlsbad that needed a few players, so I signed up.
About 2 weeks ago, I suited up in shin guards and cleats, and went down to a local field to try and get my feet on the ball a bit. I have coached youth soccer for the last 4 years, and look forward to actually playing again.
You can probably guess what happened next... After a workout on Tuesday, my right lower calf muscle felt a little tweaked, but not too bad - just a bit uncomfortable. On Thursday, I laced up and went to jog across the field and back to warm up a bit before stretching, and on the return leg the tweak cranked up a lot, and I had to stop and limp back.
It didn't feel like my previous two incidents, so I think that I did not tear the muscle - maybe just strained it or something like that. I limped for about 24 hours, and then started looking at how to stretch out the calf muscles to try and prevent this in the future.
I have stretched in the past, but I have never focused on the calf muscles. Instead, I'd work the quads, hammys, and groin. I realized that I had been neglecting my calves - pretty stupid of me (especially after two injuries).
Maybe neglecting is the wrong word... I have never been shown how to stretch out the calf, in all the sports I have played and gym classes taken through school and even in college. So, with the theory of "knowing your enemy" in mind, I first did some reading up on the calf muscle, which is actually a pair of muscles: the gastrocnemius and soleus. The article even mentions torn calf muscles, the 'pop' that so many of us feel, and the conditions that triggered it in my cases: sudden acceleration and changes in direction.
Next, I did a search on stretches focusing on the pair of calf muscles, and found these: gastrocnemius stretch and soleus stretch. Since I found these videos, I've been doing both stretches for 90 seconds on each leg, and I do believe that my lower legs are feeling better. I'm not back to 100% yet, but I can make my way around the pitch if I take care to avoid sudden acceleration and changes in direction. I hope to be back up to 95% before the first game of our season, which starts on September 5th.
If you have hurt your calf, please be careful to not stretch it out prematurely. A bad tear can take a long time to heal, so when you start trying to stretch, let common sense be your guide. Stretch slowly and gently, avoiding bouncing. Any pain should be a sign that you are doing too much too fast.
To keep the rest of your lower body in shape, I found that biking was fairly low impact for my most recent injury, so long as I didn't stand up and pedal (pushing on the front portion of the foot as you do to begin a sprint).
If you know of any other good stretches, or want to talk about your calf injury, please feel free to comment below!