Culture

Dear Calves, I’m Sorry. Love, The Runner.

Our lovely runner calves take the brunt of most runs (Hello, hills!), so it's time to pay our respects.

Photo: Guillem Casanova Photography
Photo: Guillem Casanova Photography

During my teens, I hated you.

You were too skinny, too gangly and lacking definition. Hundreds upon hundreds of sets of heel lifts made no difference. You balked in your own way—with knots severe enough to awaken me from a sound sleep.

In my twenties, I tended to wear long skirts and wide legged pants to cover your thinness. But I still ran. You voiced your complaint by getting tight and causing my knees to ache. Nothing heel lifts and a couple Vitamin I’s (aka Ibuprofen; editor’s note—I no longer take pain meds before, during or after exercise) couldn’t handle.

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By the time we were in our thirties, we had a groove. Two kids, triathlons, marathons. We were a team, but I never gave you a thought. Yet, with you I was able to do fantastic things.

I was 41 the first time I saw a picture of my legs and noticed muscles. The muscles were subtle, but I had definition—finally! In my late thirties I turned to trail running and racing. It was for fun, it was for me. And my body finally responded.

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But I, as I often do, pushed too hard. You gave me warning twinges when I transitioned to zero-drop shoes too quickly, when I decided to run two 100+ mile stage races and rim-to-rim-to-rim of the Grand Canyon in two months, and when I started testing shoes and running in one or two different pairs daily. But none of those warnings were enough to make me listen. And I kept pushing.

Now I hear you. And I am sorry for decades of neglect.

Due to Achilles tendinitis caused by your ridiculous tightness, I haven’t run longer than 10 minutes since March. Denial wasn’t helpful. An anti-inflammatory diet didn’t have the immediate fix I wanted. Stretching has been a chore.

Yesterday, my PT gave me an appropriate dressing down on your behalf.

“You have amazing calves, remarkable given the hell you’ve put them through for 30 years. It’s time to start taking care of them and listen to your body. I know not running for a few months may seem more painful than what really hurts, but it’s time for a healthy approach. You can fix this now or come back and see me after you’ve ripped your Achilles.”

Ouch.

So, my two amazing calves, this is my promise to you. I’ll floss (aka perform self-torture with a rubber band) two to three times a day, perform the couch stretch and squats on the daily, ice, roll, forgo pain meds that only mask the pain, not run for two more months (I haven’t completely accepted this yet), go on non-hilly road bike rides, swim and seek out restorative yoga classes. I’ll revisit the non-inflammatory diet (as soon as I finish my self-pity tub of cookie dough), eat more ginger and turmeric, take fish oil and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

I have mountains to climb, trails to explore and races to run. And I need your help to get me there. In return, I promise to appreciate you and give you at least one massage a day. What do you say?