3 Methods to Fix Tight Calves & Prevent Running Injuries

fix tight calves

With the closure of gyms during this circuit breaker, many are turning to running as a regular form of cardio instead. While it is a good way of keeping fit, if not careful, running can lead to injuries. One possible cause of running injuries are tight calves. In this article, our physiotherapist, Hui Lin shares 3 methods which could help fix your tight calves and prevent running injuries – stretching, self massage and strengthening.

Stretching to Relax Tight Calves

Stretching is the most common and easiest method to relax tight calf muscles. There are 2 muscles that make up the bulk of our calves, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. These 2 muscles attach to your bones differently. This means that in order to stretch your calves well, you need to do 2 different stretches to target both muscles. You can perform these stretches 3 times as part of your cooling down.

running injury tight calves

To stretch the Gastrocnemius:

  1. Get into a lunge position
  2. Keep Back Knee straightened
  3. Bend front knee and lean weight forward as far as possible while keeping the heel of your back foot flat on the floor
  4. You should feel a stretch on the top part of your calves
  5. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, repeat on the other side.

To stretch the Soleus:

  1. Get into a lunge position
  2. Keep Back Knee bent
  3. Bend front knee and lean weight forward as far as possible while keeping the heel of your back foot flat on the floor
  4. You should feel a stretch on the bottom part of your calves
  5. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, repeat on the other side.

Self Massage to Release Tight Calves

As massages are considered non-essential services during the circuit breaker, self massage is the next easiest thing to do. If you do not have any equipment at home, you can always use your fingers or elbows to get into those sore spots. You can either sit down in a chair or on the floor with the leg to be massaged positioned on top of the other in a figure 4 position. This allows you to easily access the calves with your fingers or elbows. If you have a massage ball or foam roller, position this under your calves and slowly lean your body weight onto it. Find the part of the muscle that feels the most sore and hold the pressure there for a while until the soreness eases off.

Dos:

  • Aim for a slight soreness that is within your pain tolerance. It shouldn’t feel too uncomfortable.
  • Self massage after a warm shower or a hot pack as the calf muscles will be most relaxed then. This maximises the effects of the massage.

Don’ts:

  • Use too much pressure – the key is not to elicit the maximum amount of pain as this will cause your muscles to tense up instead, hence defeating the purpose.

Strengthen Calves to fix Tightness and Prevent Injuries

The last thing you can do to fix your tight calves will be to strengthen them. As contrary as it might seem, sometimes the tightness we feel in our calves is a result of our calves being weak. Running requires our calves to work very hard. If our calves are not strong enough to tolerate the demands placed upon them when running, they tend to tense up more in order to force themselves to work harder. This results in tight calves. Relaxing them by stretching and massage will only provide short term relief. The moment running is resumed, the same problem will occur and the calves will tense up again.

The long term solution to fixing tight calves would be to strengthen them. A simple exercise will be single leg tip toeing. As mentioned, there are 2 muscles in your calves. Hence, to strengthen both of them, we need to do 2 different variations of tip toeing.

How to perform single leg tip toe to strengthen the Gastrocnemius and Soleus:

  1. Lift one leg up, hold onto a support if balance is an issue.
  2. To strengthen the Gastrocnemius, tip toe with your knee straight.
  3. To strengthen the Soleus, tip toe with your knee bent.
  4. Repeat each exercise for 10 repetitions each and perform 3 sets in total.
  5. In order to see the full strengthening effects, repeat this 2-3 times a week for at least 4 to 6 weeks.

Stretching, self massage and strengthening – 3 easy methods which you can use to fix tight calves and prevent running injuries!