it's been two weeks now since i made my last mistake of trying to run at any serious pace. since august 20th, when i had to stop my run because of the pain in my calf, i've run only 3 times. 2 of these times were races, and each of these times started great and ended very badly in terms of healing this calf problem.
still, i think the fact that the BULK of that time was rest has been very good for healing not only my calf, but my legs in general. i will say that lately, apart from my calf, my legs have been feeling better than ever. when i was running with a high level of frequency, the down-time would involve a lot of slow, slightly painful slogging around. the idea of running out to catch a football, for example, or play basketball was a painful one, as my legs really needed to be warmed before they were any good. these days, with all that rest, i feel energy back in my legs, the spring back in my step. my feet, which are especially problematic during a heavy running phase, are feeling good enough that i can make it down the stairs in the AM in less than 10 minutes.
the three things i have focused on during the rehab of this injury are compression, massage and minimal exercise. the compression was a surprise and something i tried just for the sake of it. as i've said, i don't really know if it does much for me when running (i also haven't tried it enough to know), but i do know it is very helpful when i am not running. i wear the sleeve at work, walking around home, etc... and at this point i have very minimal pain when walking around. i believe that compression not only just feels good on the leg, it also stimulates bloodflow, which is key to healing injuries.
the stick is another useful too. i wrote previously about using a foam roller to perform self massage, but i found that to be a bit cumbersome for daily use. the stick is a bit easier to use, despite the fact that you will have to put some elbow grease into it if you want to get anything out if it. i use the stick in any situation where i would want to stretch and also in the mornings and evenings. i can't say for certain that it is working, but i'm improving and the lumps i can clearly feel when using the stick on my leg seem to be getting a bit smaller.
the most important aspect to this all is minimal exercise though. if bloodflow is key to healing, doing a bit of exercise is the best way to get the blood flowing. the problem is finding the balance. running is too much. even slow running is too much at this point. i've started using the elliptical for 30-45 minutes a session and swimming (to keep the cardio going). and now i've started walking on the treadmill with it at full incline for a period of time. the most surprising thing is how much of a workout i get! i had though i could do the elliptical or walk on an incline without breaking a sweat... no chance. not only that, but i'm working muscles that are not normally touched in my running workouts... these are the glutes and the hamstrings just below the glutes. i think building strength in these areas is a large part of what is helping me get the spring back in my step.
it'll be a couple more weeks before i start running again regularly, but i am starting to get exciting about the prospect that i can do exercises now that will make me a better runner when i am ready to start picking up the miles. getting injured in the first place was certainly a result of mostly too much too soon, but also a by-product of muscle imbalances and poor form. if i strengthen the areas that are weaker and balance the imbalances, i'm almost certain it will do wonders to improve my form.
it's very, very hard not to be out there pounding out the runs... but i'm trying as hard as i can to do the right thing, let the calf fully heal, and to prepare myself for some serious marathon training come november.