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This is what you need to do for TIGHT CALVES !!!

This is what you need to do for TIGHT CALVES !!!

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Do you have TIGHT CALVES??? Read this and you will know what to do from now on!

People always say to me “I’ve got tight calves!”…
In this article I will explain to you why most of you get tight calves. Whether you are sportspeople and your calves tighten-up during and after training or even if you just have a full time office life, I’ve got the answer for you!…

If you think you know what “calf” is, then take a look at this first…
Calf is the area of the back of the lower part of the leg. The big muscle which is always looking like a huge oval is called Gastrocnemius by Gastro (meaning stomach in Greek) and Cnemi (meaning shin in Greek. So “the stomach of the shin” as in the main part of the shin area!). There are a few other muscles around Gastrocnemius too but this is the KING of the shin area!
So let’s respect it and give it some attention…

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(Credit to Spinemedboston.com)

So, why do I feel my calves tightening-up all the time???

There are 3 main causes for tight calves and here they are:

  1. Too much pounding in gym classes or in training
  2. Previous Back problems
  3. Sciatic Nerve Dysfunction

See I haven’t mentioned the words flexibility OR stretching yet purely because all these 3 points above WILL cause flexibility problems and then your calves WILL go tight. But if you just stretch and stretch and stretch, then these 3 reasons will still be there. They are the main stem of the entire problem you see…

So let’s quickly brush over these 3 causes of tight calves.

Too much pounding in gym classes or in training…

 

The same applies when you go out for a run at the park or on the roads. Pounding happens through your ankle joints up to your knees and hips and then back down again so you can move forwards and basically run !!!

 

The HUGE importance of basic Physics…

  • Remember Physics at school?
  • Remember the law of gravity?

….That gravity keeps us and every object on the ground…

Another Physics law says that the amount of weight you put to the ground, you get the equal one firing back at you from the ground itself!!!

So when you are pounding and bouncing on your feet, then your body weight goes through your hips, knees and ankles and hits the floor. Then you get the same weight firing back at you and this process is a natural reaction between you and the ground. And this is exactly what creates the next movement and the next and the next and so on.

The main muscle that first receives all these series of impact from you to the ground and vice versa, is the actual Gastrocnemius muscle…

So all this jumping, pounding and bouncing WILL travel through this muscle all this time you are smashing the session and feeling good!!!

Does your Gastrocnemius muscle feel equally great though?

I am sure not. And this is because you have lost your form in the last few minutes of the class or your run, because tiredness kicks in whether you feel it or not. Your muscles and especially Mr. G (for Gastrocnemius!!!) will NOT be happy afterall. And this is not because you just do your favourite sport but purely because you never stop!!!

The amount of gym classes people do week in week out is enormous…And that’s just from personal experience in my Practice, seeing at least  5 calf injuries a week in the last 9 years…

Same applies for our runners at the clinic. What is your perspective and what are you trying to achieve? Is it distance, speed or both?

Or are you just super competitive because your next door neighbour can do more…?

Because they may be younger or even older and you think that they put you to “shame”…?

SOLUTION: Put a realistic goal that you can achieve without feeling tight on your calves everytime. If you do, this means that what you do in that day or week is too much for your body to cope. It’s not a matter of flexibility because flexibility needs to be maintained anyway…

Ok, so moving onto the next cause of tight calves and this is:

Previous Back Problems…

Needless to say that your Back is linked to your legs meaning also linked to Mr.G !!!!

So any of you with previous Back injuries, niggles or just general day to day back stiffness (which should not exist anyway!!!) you WILL at some point in your life have very tight calves…

Have you got any idea why this happens?

I will give you the answer right now!

Yes this house is stunning..In order to view it we need to go through the main door and then around the ground floor and then up the beautiful spiral stairs to the first floor and the bedrooms. So without the main door we wouldn’t have access to it and without the spiral staircase no access to the top floor right?

The same applies to your own body

Everything starts from the feet and ankles and works its way up to your skull and the head. So without Mr.G there wouldn’t be any “BACK” at all. Mr.G supports your ankles AND your knees which support your body weight through your hips. This means you can stand upright and move without falling apart…Although everyone says to me at the clinic “I think I’m falling apart!!!” :)))…..

Try this at home:

  • Bend down to touch your toes and see how far you go…
  • Then do this stretch (see picture) now…Push to the wall with your back heel on the floor and your back leg helping you to push more whilst your knee is straight. Don’t worry about the front leg for now…

  • Then repeat bending over and trying to touch your toes or the floor. It’s easier isn’t it ???!!!
Most back problems are associated to extreme muscle tightness around the back of the shoulders or even the lower back itself. The muscles “lock-up” to protect, as we discussed in previous blogs..

And they do that by becoming short and tight. Basically they shrink. And when they do that they refuse to do any further work or spend any more energy for your body to function properly. So as you can imagine Mr.G will have to take over the whole effort now and support your posture even further. And your back will always prefer to rely on Mr.G for support and this will start making it weaker and weaker.

Therefore Mr.G will take on more and more tasks and eventually tire itself out and become tight and stiff….

Another thing that also changes with previous back problems is obviously your own posture. And this is part of your brain’s mechanism to compensate and take the pressure off and away from your back. So apart from Mr.G just taking on more, your entire posture changes without you realising it. Also, posture changes are always putting more pressure on other joints, as you would expect. And then Mr.G will have to deal with this too!

————————————————-So, moving onto the third MAIN cause of your tight calves———————————————–

Sciatic Nerve Dysfunction…

 

As you can tell, the sciatic nerve follows its own way from your lower back all the way down to the back of your heel and into your foot. It is indeed the thickest and the most powerful nerve inside you…

The word nerve dysfunction means something that does not match its usual function. Basically, something has been disturbed along its way and the nerve is not functioning well anymore. But once again, you will be the last to know…

And that’s because your body is too clever to make you feel sad just like that so it will again try other ways to fix the problem for you. If nothing works then you will know… However, the main thing here is that you NEED to keep the sciatic nerve muscles happy at all times. Here is a list of them:

  • Back extensors. These are the long tube-like muscles at the lower part of your back. You can feel them if you put your hand on your lower back and try and stretch backwards.
  • Glutes. These are the muscles covering the entire buttock area on both sides. They are meant to be the strongest in the body but unfortunatelly they aren’t. And that’s because the only thing you do about them is squats, if that…
  • Hamstrings. These are the muscles covering the back of your thigh. You can feel them if you put your hand on the back of your thigh and try and bend your knee back.
So, these three muscle groups are the ones you NEED to keep happy at all times.

The reason being, your sciatic nerve can be “trapped” within your hamstrings for example if they are not stretchy enough. Because their tightness and stiffness will make them shrink and go more lumpy than straight. And then the sciatic nerve won’t have a straight route down to your leg.

Or for instance, your glute muscles are not as strong as they should be meaning your trunk and waist won’t be as supported as they should be. This will give your sciatic nerve a bad start in its journey (as it starts from around the bottom of your back / glute area).

So, here is what you need to do for each and every one of these muscles:
  • Back extensors: make sure they are as less tight as possible day in day out. Most of the time you will not feel this “tightness” so you best just do this anyway so as to be on the safe side.

AT THE OFFICE, SIT WITH YOUR BACK TOUCHING THE BACK OF THE CHAIR

IN TRAINING, STRETCH AFTER YOUR SESSION FOR AT LEAST 5 MINUTES…DO THIS:

So, lie on your back on the floor and bring your knees to your chest. Hold them tight together and close to you as much as you can. If you do it properly you should start feeling a nice – mild stretch at the bottom of your back.

 

  • Glutes: make sure they are strong at all times. Strength doesn’t necessarily mean weight lifting but more like an “engagement” of these muscles. You will be shocked how many of you won’t be able to squeeze your bum cheeks as we speak. Try it !!!

Then watch this video so you can strengthen your bum and buttocks effectively…

 

ALSO THIS IS ANOTHER GREAT ONE FOR YOU !!!

https://youtu.be/-FPBdD_AI_Y

  • Hamstrings: Keep them stretched at all times. Don’t forget you sit on them pretty much 8 hours every day so they will become stiff anyway. Stretchy hamstrings will keep the sciatic nerve route nice and smooth and with no traffic or disruptions. Watch this quick demo on what you need to do for your hamstrings…

So, you NEED to keep those muscles happy because then the sciatic nerve won’t be trapped at any point through its journey down your heel and foot. And if this route is smooth for it, then it will keep pumping your legs with good signals. These signals will help your legs to work properly all the time. This is the main role of nerves anyway…

However, if the route is somehow disrupted, then you probably won’t feel anything yourself but your Mr.G won’t receive good signals. And therefore it will use the best protection mechanism. The same thing that you would do in a cold wintery day…Shrug your shoulders up and shrink against the cold. Shrinking equally means TIGHTNESS!!!!

So, let’s wrap it up and remind ourselves what you need to do to fix your tight calves:
  1. Make a sound plan for your fitness. Instruct a specialist to make a proper plan for you instead of just turning up into as many classes as you can and instead of just going out every day running more and more. You need a structure and a realistic goal based on your body type, your age, your abilities, your body weight, your lifestyle, your posture and your previous history including family history...
  2. Make sure you haven’t got even the slightest of signs for back pain, niggles or back tightness. You would think “it’s okay i can live with it” OR “it’s just muscle” but the damage is far more than what you think.
  3. Make sure you get your back checked especially if you previously have had a back injury or back problems. Because 9/10 times people think the problem has gone because they feel better but trust me, it’s not gone…
  4. Make sure the back extensors, the glutes and the hamstrings are HAPPY. Because then, the sciatic nerve will smoothly flow up and down your leg. This also means your Mr.G will be happy too!!!!

 

Hope you enjoyed the read folks. Please contact me on 07527-836-754 or on christos@olympossic.co.uk if you need any more advice on injuries, pain management, posture & stretching. Also feel free to follow me on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClRTnWDs5mlgqNefOTPld6A/videos) every Tuesday @9pm, where FREE stretching is given to you all, and you can stretch with me live or catch up anytime!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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