A couple of weeks ago, I started self-training in running, and I was walking/running on the trail, building up endurance while avoiding fatigue and injury (so I intended). I’d done the warmups recommended by my trainer and felt really good in my running—lifting my knees, almost sprinting, feeling that great-to-be-alive, heart-pounding, hard-breathing experience of really challenging my body in a healthy way. I was loving the run!
Then, running up a hill, I pulled my left calf muscle. I immediately slowed to a walk, walked for about 10 minutes, and then (ruh roh), I decided it wasn’t so bad and ran some more.
Afterwards, I could feel the pull, but it seemed pretty minor. I could walk fine, without a limp. However, I did wisely decide not to run again until it felt really fine.
Six days passed, and I went to ecstatic dance, where everyone dances like no one is watching. I love this practice, moving to music, going with the flow, connecting with others, letting go, being part of the tribe. I can get pretty wild, jumping around with a big grin, leaping from foot to foot, being danced.
If you have no clue what I’m talking about, it’s like this:
So anyway, while leaping about, I suddenly felt strong pain in my left calf. I limped to the side and did not feel like dancing any more.
Thinking it was my gastrocnemius (the superficial calf muscle), I had a massage therapist work on it that afternoon. I was still limping badly afterwards, although definitely more relaxed. I went home and iced it, and then…
A massage magazine I’d been reading was next to my bed. I picked it up and saw there was an article by Dr. Ben Benjamin on the soleus, the deeper calf muscle. It included diagnostic tests, and I verified that it was my soleus muscle that was injured. (The image shows it without the gastrocnemius.)
Guess what? It could take 4-6 weeks to fully heal. That was depressing.
Benjamin (who also wrote the fantastic reference book about muscle injuries that belongs in the home library of every athlete (in my opinion), Listen to Your Pain) gave instructions for “friction therapy” massage, stretching, and strengthening. I also put ice on it, several times a day at first and now just once a day right after I do the clinical protocol.
My leg went from maybe 15 percent to 85 percent functional within a week. My limp gradually lessened, day by day. The calf still feels just a bit tight and tender. My hunch is that the last 15 percent of healing will happen more slowly.
Anyway, I feel really empowered about using clinical massage on my own injury and seeing (and feeling) rapid improvement.
I am ready to apply that to others.