I read a line like that in a book about paying attention to what your body is saying to you, so that small injuries do not turn into larger ones. Eleven days ago at the Gate City Striders track workout I felt a twinge in my soleus muscle that knocked me out of the workout. I took a day off and tried to run that Friday. I had to walk home the last two miles of an 8 miler as the muscle just tightened up. This is an injury that I have had 3 times previously in the past three years, so I wasn't happy.
I decided to be smart and not run. After a few days I could feel a marble-sized knot up in my calf (probably the source of the injury). I couldn't massage the thing away so I kept waiting. Last Monday I kickbiked down to Mines Falls to the the trail run series. I started warming up but after 100 yards of running I knew enough not to run. So I helped out directing traffic on the course; in the woods, with no bug spray on. After 50 minutes my legs were eaten alive.
I did a lot of biking last week but kept away from running until Saturday. I did 1 mile on the treadmill using my Vibram Five-finger shoes. I was up on my toes and felt no pain or stiffness. I went out then in my running shoes and did 4 miles, after one mile the soleus started tightening up a bit and I thought I would have to walk again, but I focused on my stride and made it home. Yesterday I only biked to keep things healing.
Tonight I decided to give it a go in the Mines Falls race series. This time I decided to take it easy and try something different. Instead of running the 5k course I ran the 5 miles course (a first for me). I actually enjoyed the course and didn't trip or run into a tree during the last difficult mile (my worry). I don't have the best balance! I also stayed on the course without getting lost. It was the relay race night, but I and a few others ran the whole race. I took it out easy and after a mile started passing a few people. At the relay exchange I got passed again by a fresh runner but soon got my position back. I hit the 3 mile mark at 19:00. I don't know how accurate it was. I picked up the pace just a bit, but then my heart started racing too much all of a sudden (I don't recall that ever happening before). It calmed down after about 20 seconds. I actually liked the variety of terrain and constant turning as opposed to the steady running at the same pace of the 5k course. The last mile was tricky and I slowed so as to keep on my feet and on the trail. It didn't feel as hard an effort as the 5k usually does as my speed was slower. I think I finished with a time of 33:44. The best thing was that my calf and soleus (although still not fully loose) did not bother me during the race. I believe I was very patient about letting it heal, even though it was very hard not to run, because I was itching to run all week. Hopefully tomorrow it will feel good enough to run again.
Foam Roller Tips
Yesterday I spent a good hour on the foam roller, something I haven't used too much this year at all. I was concentrating on doing the foam rolling properly and with purpose and used some new cues to help me gain more benefit from the foam roller.
Here is a video of how I used to use the foam roller on my hamstrings. This is how most people use the roller. It never really worked that well for me using this technique.
This is not the way I did it yesterday. I don't have a video, but here is a better way that I have learned. Sit on the foam roller with it up against your sacrum. Do one leg at a time so bend your other leg for balance and movement purposes. If you are rolling the right hamstring place your right arm straight behind you with your hand giving you balance on the ground. Your left hand does not have to be on the ground. Now, here is the important part. Sit up: head and chest lifted up. Move your hips back. Your hip is the hinge and as you press your hip back the roller will slide over your hamstring. Keep that leg straight and off the floor if you can. As your hip moves back your "straight" upper body will move forward, almost like what you would do when you bend forward to touch your toes. But, you are not bending forward, you are pushing your hips back. This will really feel good on the hamstring and gave me a far superior stretch and release. Don't forget to shift your hip so you are getting the hamstring on the side too! If you hit a painful spot stay on it until it does not hurt!
Here is a video of foam rolling the calf muscles. This is basic. What I do is put on ankle on top of the other and roll one leg at a time. Also point the toes and dorsiflex then also. Do the sides of the calf too, by pointing the toes to the side. If you don't get as much help as you would like, rather than use a foam roller use some PVC pipe that you can get from Home Depot. I cut up some 5" or 6" pipe and that gives you a very stiff roller!
I worked my calf muscles and soleus muscle, my quads and ITB band (mine is so thick and tight I can never get it to hurt- even if I put all my body weight on it). I worked my lower back and upper back also. Here is another trick I learned for the mid and upper back. As you roll over either side, you can get a deeper stretch and release by lifting up your hands to over your head. It works like this. If you are doing your mid back, first lift your hands up towards the ceiling. Then pull your wrists straight back with your arms remaining straight- don't bend the elbows. Next, pull your straight arms back towards your ears, like you are lifting your hands over your head. Don't twist the wrists to either side, keep the hands pointing back. This is not easy! Now roll with your arms in this position. As you do each side you can use your opposite hand to pull the fingers back on the side being stretched and rolled. You can go right over your shoulder blades to loosen them up doing this. This also gives a far superior stretch and release. I felt much looser today after all the foam rolling.