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Another Runner Falls To The Almighty (albeit tiny) Plantaris Muscle

April 2012
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I spent Saturday afternoon at English Pete’s house with my wife and kids to celebrate his daughter’s birthday.  Big Steve and his wife were there too (all three of us have daughters, six between us).  A good time was had by all with the exception of some “we didn’t get our nap” kid drama.  After dinner Steve, Pete and I talked about our current fitness goals, diets and other fun topics that should be discussed at a party.  Pete’s pared his running back to concentrate on cross-fit, which he’s loving and is really working out quite well for him – he’s really getting quite ripped.  Steve is, like me, deep into cycling and triathlons so we had a lot in common to talk about (Steve works out of state, so he’s only back every other weekend).  After a bit, Steve mentioned that he’d been having problems with his left calf muscle for about a week but couldn’t figure out what was going on.  He said that it feels like he pulled his calf, but the pain generates “behind” the muscle and radiates all the way down to his Achilles.

Obviously a light bulb appeared over my head – I just dealt with this less than two months ago, so I let him in on what was going on.  I also asked if he’d changed strides recently from the normal mid-foot or heel strike to the fore-foot, to which he replied No.  This surprised me, and I let him know how my injury occurred and why, because of the isolation of the Plantaris muscle.  My description of the injury sparked something because his expression changed from one of interest to understanding.  He said that he’d switched over to minimalist running shoes just before the injury and that he was planning on starting out slow on them but opted for a 10k right out of the gate instead. Ah, “I see” said the blind man to his deaf wife.

Sure enough, as he went through the story, his was almost exactly like mine – except I didn’t buy an $80 pair of shoes to pull my calf muscle (no, I was brilliant enough to do that on normal running shoes).  Fortunately he’s as deep into cycling as I am so he really loved the remedy – ice and riding (high cadence, low speed, drop the heel at the bottom of the pedal stroke to stretch out the Plantaris).  Surprisingly enough, Pete had been dealing with the same pain for months but just ran through it (good God, that man is tough – it hurts!).  If you’re a road rider and a speed freak, as I am, I would humbly suggest for recovery from this injury to ride a mountain bike for a bit if you’ve got one.  I’ve found that riding mine takes a little bit of the need for speed out of the ride, I’m able to relax and enjoy the slower speed if I’m not on my Ferrari of bikes.

I’ve said it before, and here’s once more:  Minimalist running may be the next awesome thing, I wouldn’t suggest anyone shy away from it – especially if it makes you happy to be on the road/trail (!!!) – just be careful and build up the Plantaris slowly.  If you’ve been running for a while already that muscle isn’t used to being isolated like that and you have to start from square one to build it up or you will wind up hobbled.

Happy running,

Jim

PS.  If you wondered why I called my bike the “Ferrari” of bikes, it’s because the newer Di2 Dura Ace (or Super Record) steeds would be the Lamborghini’s…  The high end Triathlon bikes would be McLaren’s.


4 Comments

  1. hcah says:

    Great post and great advice!

  2. Kimberly / ThePowerOfRun.com says:

    Yep… everyone is eager to jump on the minimalist bandwagon (including me), and too many people make the transition too fast and get hurt. After my marathon, I am going to transition to a lighter shoe, by adding it to my rotation. I’ve had better luck rotating shoes (I have 3 in my current rotation) and using the less built up shoes for short runs only.

  3. joe@transstor.eu says:

    so really you think its best to keep on the bike and stretch the muscle out ? i just rested my plantaris for a week…got on bike this morning and bang ! it’s still there…cannot feel it though on day to day life 😦 help

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