Do your calves get really tight after exercise?
Do you get killer cramp in them?
You are not alone.
Many of the people I see, athletes and non-athletes, have calves so tight that the gentlest touch can make them cry like you did the last time you watched Bambi.
Why so sensitive, buttercup?
Generally, with calves like this, you are using them to pick up the slack for another muscle group that has 'gone on holiday'.
They have high tone while another muscle elsewhere has low tone, tone being the resting level of contraction of a muscle. With a quick feel around with your hands, you can feel some muscled areas feel harder than others.
In an ideal world, at rest we would have even tone.
Part of my work involves helping my clients redistribute their muscular tone towards that point of even tone.
The most common pattern I encounter in those with very tight calves is very soft hamstrings.
One of the functions of your calf is the same of that of your hammies - to bend your knee - so in this case, the calf is trying to bend the knee all by itself. Your hammie has 'gone on holiday'.
Many of us stretch and foam roll our calves only to have them tighten straight back up. Here's the funny thing...
The calves can't permanently relax until the hammies come back from holiday. There's work to be done that can just be ignored.
There's a rough way to find out if this is your scenario that you can do by yourself:
- Use your hammie to bend your knee and notice how easy it feels. Maybe you'll need a bit of resistance to help you gauge that.
- Stretch or foam roll the corresponding calf for 30 seconds and immediately use the hammie to bend your knee again.
If it feels easier for your to bend your knee now, the odds are you've redistributed some of the tone from your calf to your hammie. It can contract better and therefore feels stronger.
The calf, now it can relax more at rest, will also work better for you.
I don't know if your hammie is indeed the muscle group on holiday but with some patience, maybe you can find what else is.
Your calves needn't be killers.
Arton "Wants to join your hammies on holiday" Baleci