Last week was a pretty great week as far as running goes. Or should I say, it started out great. I had two stellar days of 7 mile runs and was feeling like this might be a really solid 40+ mile week for me. On Wednesday I took off for an easy 7 miles in Central Park and to avoid hills I went up to the North Meadow, my favorite area to do loops when I was doing speed work last year.
Five miles into my run, I left the park to do an easy two home and my calf suddenly cramped up. It was so random and so painful that I let out a WTF (without the abbreviations) and started stretching at every stop light. At first, this was helpful. However, by the end I was basically limping home.
I walked up stairs in tears and told Rock what happened. I was honestly at a loss for what was going on with my body. I had been feeling great. I wasn’t doing anything difficult on my run, and suddenly my calf turned into what felt like a stinging rock.
I had some signs of dehydration and made a note to up my intake of both water and electrolytes. Besides that, there was no indication of any other issue.
After a nap, I woke up and could barely move. I started freaking out. WTF was going on? How the heck was I going to get Mary down five flights of stairs? Rock was at work and we couldn’t just spend all afternoon in this tiny little apartment!
We hobbled our way downstairs and I shuffled to the park. My leg slowly loosened up and there were signs that it might be just a temporary issue. But when I woke up the next morning, and every time I would get up from sitting down, my calves screamed at me. Every step felt like my muscles were trying to pull me backward. It was incredibly frustrating.
Saturday was a washout. It rained all day and I stayed inside on the couch. I massaged my leg, continued to compress it, and tried my hand at self ART massage. The results were fantastic. By Sunday morning it felt almost normal and I went for a really slow four mile run. I was overly cautious and stopped every half mile to stretch and check in with my body.
Everything felt great! After the run I had some tightness, but I figured that was to be expected after any injury. I also spent the rest of the day on my feet as we went to the zoo and wandered the park.
However, by Sunday night I went to massage my leg and was shocked to see how swollen it was. I couldn’t even see my shin. The muscles had also tightened back up and I was back to WTF. I was really starting to get down on this situation and myself.
I’ve done some pretty stupid things over the years. I’ve over trained. I’ve run when I knew I was injured and was in self-doubt, and I’ve pushed my body when I knew I really should have given it a break. In the past several years as I have been busy coaching other runners, I have been much smarter. I listen to my body. I stop when it needs a break. Over the past few weeks I have even been taking an extra day off because my pregnant body was feeling a bit more tired.
This injury left me dumbfounded. Where did it come from? What the heck was it? The frustration of not knowing what it was or how it happened was driving me nuts. Rock recommended I call my trusted massage therapist. I was hesitant because most therapists won’t work with pregnant women after the first trimester and I am now 19 weeks into this. Fortunately, he is certified in perinatal massage.
I’ve said this before and I will say it again, Howard is a magician when it comes to running injuries. He is a runner and a very speedy and accomplished marathoner. He took one look at my calf, poked around, and listened to my story and told me I had a minor tear in my calf.
One hour later, I was a sweaty mess. He put my leg through the wringer and I am pretty sure I ground a few teeth down as he dug into my leg. I left feeling almost like new and relieved to know what the heck is wrong.
He recommended I give it a few days and explained a new rule of thumb to me that I will be following: When you have an injury such as this, work on slow stretching. Only stretch to the point where it starts to hurt and do not go past that point. Each day you will start to notice that you can stretch the muscle a bit further. Once you get to a point where it no longer hurts to stretch, it is okay to give running a try.
I asked Howard how this could have happened out of nowhere and he also had some sound advice on this one too: Sometimes muscle tears just happen. However, dehydration can play a very large role in muscle strains. Pregnancy requires a lot of hydration and pregnant women are at a greater risk of dehydration. All runners should focus on upping their hydration as the weather gets warmer and do not neglect the electrolytes. With warm weather we sweat more, and if we don’t replace electrolytes, we won’t absorb water efficiently.
I plan on touching upon my pregnancy and running a bit more in coming weeks, and I will also follow up some more on hydration. In the meantime, I am happy to report that I feel 90% better already. I’m icing my leg as I type this post. I will continue to stretch and take it easy until my body tells me it is time to get going again. I sure hope that is sooner than later!
Have you ever had a WTF injury?