Q. How do I deal with a niggling calf injury?
A. An injury that won't settle can be deeply annoying. When the calf is injured your swim, run and bike training can be affected, which will have a major impact on overall fitness if you lose training days.
The first thing you must do is ask a few crucial questions:
- What brings on the pain and can I stop it?
- Which parts of my training remain pain-free?
- Have I rested it or trained through it?
- Do I need new trainers or a bike fit?
- Do I need a physio screening?
Avoid movements that hurt and if you can do certain training sessions without feeling pain you can maintain these, and your fitness, while you heal. Be honest about time out; sometimes adequate rest is all you need, especially if you're coming off the back of a build phase.
Check your kit
A kit check is always worthwhile; pay special attention to your footwear for both running and cycling. Small alterations in foot position can make a huge difference to the calf and knee. A bike fit is essential to make sure you are getting the most from your bike and your body. All good bike shops should offer a bike-fit service.
A physio screening can pick up postural and muscle imbalances and you may be given strength-and-conditioning drills specific to your injury. Physiotherapy can also teach you trigger points and taping techniques that you can use to rest and condition your calf muscles while you rehabilitate.
Tweaks to your running style and using different styles of trainers for specific training sessions can address long-standing calf problems, and improve forefoot running and propulsion.
Paula Coates is a clinical specialist sports physiotherapist (paulacoates.com) who has 16 years experience in treating both professional and non-professional athletes at a leading sports-injury clinic in London. She has eight marathons - three of them on inline skates - to her name and is the author of four books, including Running Repairs: a Runner's Guide to Keeping Injury Free.