After resting for 2 weeks, when I did eventual get back to running it went straight away – a case of too much too soon, not enough elsewhere, any and all of the above – who knows. What then followed was a full day of incredible frustration and grumpiness (which I decided to sit with and wait until it passed) I think that allowing the sense of disappointment an outlet is really important. If this had dragged on into Sunday I’d have been more concerned, but it is important to allow ourselves time to grieve / bemoan the loss of something that matters. What I did next was then far more effective as I had allowed myself the time to move onto action.
The first thing I did was go back to researching rehab protocols for calf strains. Dom was very much of the mindset it was purely a joint issue – a lack of anterior tilt in my pelvis, resulting in a restriction in hip flexion and the knock-on effect lower down in the leg. Whilst I have no doubt this is the cause I also think that the lack of strength in what you aren’t using, alongside re-loading the injured area needs to be included. This led me to the following 3 articles:
https://www.mountainpeakfitness.com/blog/calf-achilles-lower-leg-silas which explains the injury
https://www.mountainpeakfitness.com/blog/strength-stability-foot-ankle-lower-leg which gives a rehab protocol and an alternative view here:
Having read all 4 articles I could begin to create my own 4 week rehab protocols based on bodyweight loading in week 1, through to added in strength work in week 2 and a combination of the 2 going forwards.
Home – W1 Bodyweight – toe splays / writing the alphabet / towel grabs / standing on 1 foot 30 secs/ toe & heel walks, calf raises (2 up / 1 down 1 x 15 straight leg, 1 x 15 bent leg 1 up / 2 down 1 x 15 straight leg, 1 x 15 bent leg)
W2 – writing the alphabet, standing on one foot 45 secs, soleus wall sit 30 secs x 2 up to x4 skipping & hopping
Weights – Seated calf raises & loaded plant walk,
W3 & W4 – increase weight / time on above
One of the biggest learnings I had was around the feet / ankles in terms of needing to work on these to help, which on reflection should have been no surprise at all.
Once this was all in place, working well I got to think about a progressive loading plan for returning to run. For me that has looked like this:
Run 1: 10 x 1 min easy running, 2 mins walk
Run 2: 10 x 1 min easy running, 1 min walk
Run 3: 10 x 500m easy running, 1 min walk
Run 4: 7 x 800m easy running / 90 sec walk
Run 5: 5 x 1k easy running / 90 sec walk
Run 6: 5 x 1.6k easy running / 1 min walk
Run 7: 3 x 3k easy running / 1 min walk
Run 8: 1 x 5k easy running
Run 9: 1 x 8k easy running
Run 10: 1 x 10k easy running
In terms of days run – no more than 3 in a row, and any sign of pain stop and walk, go back to the exercises.
Alongside which I’ve been using Zwift to keep up tempo work so that I maintain a decent physical and mental level of engagement with exercise. What I don’t want is to lose what fitness I have to less taxing forms of work, that my body can easily manage as I’m not loading the calf.
Overall the things that I’ve taken away are:
- Allow yourself some time to grieve the injury, then embrace it and see it as a challenge not a threat.
- Have a plan to work to – this gives control.
- Use the advice of those you trust, professionals and feed this into your rehab protocol.
- Find the cause (if possible) and work on that. Often with physical injuries the cause is somewhere completely different – in my case the hip caused a soleus injury
- Gradually and progressively move and load the area that has broken down. Have a daily practice that is safe and works.
- What else can help support the area of concern – is there something else that historically hasn’t been working for you. If so, what and how can you help this part of you to work better as part of the whole.
- Rest – sleep works wonder
- Have patience – equally when you are confident you can move forwards do so rather than letting the injury rule you via fear.
- What else can you do whilst the injury is healing – no load bearing? Swim / cycle. Walking another great way to maintain a movement practice.
- Be prepared to travel forwards / backwards as you heal. We don’t work in a linear fashion and our bodies are not as pliable as we want them to be.