About a month ago I strained a left calf muscle. I did all of the right things after getting injured: rest, ice, massaging the area, and cross-training. It got better, so I started running on the treadmill. Everything was fine until I re-injured it two weeks ago running outdoors. The muscle didn't hurt when I skied, probably because the pressure of the ski boot on the sore spot was like trigger point massage. It was also okay when I used the elliptical trainer at the gym. I went back to a beginning runner's program, starting off with just a few minutes of slow running on the treadmill followed by time on the elliptical trainer. I gradually increased the number of running minutes and decreased the corresponding number of minutes on the elliptical trainer. This past week my leg felt great.
Today the weather was warm and sunny. It was more like April than January. I thought about going to the gym, but just couldn't pass up the opportunity for an ice-free outdoor run. My plan was to run slowly for as long as my leg felt good. As soon as I felt something pulling or any pain, then I would walk. Everything was great today! I ended up running 5 km without any pain. OK, when I got close to my turnaround point, I felt a slight twinge in the muscle, which quickly disappeared. My pace was very slow. It took over 28.5 minutes to run a course that I normally do in around 25. But just being able to run again was such a great feeling. I know that my speed will come back. The important thing is to take it slowly and gradually increase my speed and distance. If I'm going to be on an injury rehab program, this is the best time because it isn't racing season. I'll have a few months to work my way back into racing form.
When the weather is on the cool side, I tend to go too fast. That is probably how I reinjured my leg--I ran outside on a very cold day and was trying to get warm quickly. I overdressed a little bit this morning so that I wouldn't be tempted to go fast in order to warm up. My plan worked because I kept a slow pace the whole time, though I was faster on the return leg of my out-and-back course. I'm glad that I was able to cross-train by skiing and using the elliptical trainer. It would have been much worse if I couldn't do anything at all. But best of all, I'm happy that my leg has finally healed.
It's amazing how our bodies tell us that we need to slow down and take it easy. My late running partner Bill used to tell me that injuries were caused by three things: 1) increasing mileage too quickly or too much mileage, 2) excessive speed or increasing speed too quickly, and 3) both 1 and 2. I'll add a fourth thing to Bill's list: not enough rest or down time. I know that I haven't really been taking much down time. Perhaps this injury was my body's way of telling me to take a little break from running. Our bodies are wonderful things, though we don't always want to listen to what they're telling us.