Stiff calf after running

You are not alone if you have noticed tight legs and calves after running. Learn more about stiff calves after running and to prevent them.

Although there is no easy solution, there are some ways to loosen your legs and calves and reduce the chances of tightening up at a critical time when running.

Consider running in terrain

If you have proper running shoes and still have problems with stiff calves, you should consider terrain: Have you recently switched to running more slopes? Focus on using the gluteal muscles to get up the hills. You can also spend more time on your feet when you tip your toes up a slope; instead, let the heel drop occasionally to allow the calf muscle to release a little more. 

Get hydrated

Research has shown that dehydration can lead to tight muscles – and if your legs are already tense, being a liter low on your daily water intake can change them from irritating to the painful territory. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water every day, more if you sweat a lot during a workout – and add an electrolyte or pinch of salt to some of these glasses to maintain sodium, magnesium, and potassium levels.

Practice basic running protocols with extreme caution: In the summer, cramps and tightness can be aggravated by dehydration, so make sure you start the runs with complete hydration and continue to sip while running, especially since the runs last longer than an hour.

Warmp-up and cool down

A slow and steady warm-up is the key to avoiding immediate muscle tightness as you begin to increase your pace in all weather conditions. Use a few minutes before each run to walk, make activation moves as an outcome, and gentle jumps on the toes.

Cool down by easy jogging for a few minutes after a run and have a few stretches. Also, consider getting equipment that stretches for you – for example, a Strasbourg sock gently pulls your toes against your leg to stretch your legs while you sleep. 

Stretch and strength

Stretching – dynamic and static – can help, but have static stretches after running instead of beforehand. Stretching is important because it increases the joint’s range of motion, improving balance and keeping the muscles working more efficiently. During training, walking or running uphill is a great leg activator and naturally forces the muscles to try while you are on your way up.

You can do the staircase stretch slowly, but it is also an advantage to do it faster, in a pumping motion. Because your legs are so tight, excess fluid and blood can accumulate in these muscles and can benefit from being flushed out. Then add a quick set of calf pumps to your subsequent post-race chill. Aim to do this daily.

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