Calf Pain and Calf Cramps….What to do when the little belly is full and tight and causing you pain? I am again referring to “the little Belly” (see my previous posts on this and you’ll know I’m not referring to the separate stomach sections children say exist so they can have dessert after eating almost no dinner!). I am referring to your gastrocnemius (one of the calf muscles) when it is either swollen from working out or cramped up from running, driving, cycling and/or daily life.
The calf muscles (gastrocnemius, soleus) and their crazy strong connective tissue at the Achilles heel, need as much TLC as your lower back, shoulders, or neck. Being aware and taking care of the whole body, not just immediate problem areas, is part of Yoga Tune Up®’s overall philosophy of healing, strengthening and living better in your body.
As a cyclist, I tend to be hyperaware of this particular area, as it can cramp easily. Part of my own self-care routine of this muscle is to use my YTU® therapy balls, especially after a really long ride or a ride that involves climbing out of the saddle. This type of climbing requires pulling up on the pedals with one leg while pushing down with the other. The pulling up part is where the calves get really involved. A post-ride self massage increases blood flow back into the muscles, breaks up muscular scar tissue, aids in healing and frankly, just feels really good. The Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Ball Program: Lower Body Series CD provides some targeted calf massage routines and movements that provide relief and promote lower leg health. A couple of YTU® poses that target/stretch the calves are Sitting Seza with a Strap and Dandasana with Ankle Circles. Be sure to check out the video below for Calf Stretch against the Wall, which can also be found on the 10 Minute Quick Fix for Feet and Ankles video. Give that little a belly a break.
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Thanks! – I forgot about driving! I have a standard car so lots of plantar flexion, especially in heavy traffic holding the clutch down!
Great resources for dealing with issues in the calves/achilles! I will definitely be doing some of these pre and post run to see how my legs respond. There are some good knots going on in my belly(s)!
Thank-you Heidi for your articles on the calves and heel pain. This area comes up often in my practice as a Massage Therapist and while I do specific work on it, I love to give my clients homework to do for their own maintenance. I will look at your suggested resources to give my clients some new material. =:0)
Thanks for the info. I am definitely going to try sitting seza with strap and wall stretch as the video explained. As someone who walks 3-5 miles 4-5x weekly, I need these stretches to stay away from foot pain. Will be able to teach friends who have the same symptoms.
Awesome stretch! I know all too well about intensely cramping calves and this stretch eases out those nagging knots.
I have been looking a lot at ‘pulling’ actions and the up of the cycling action was never one I thought about. I always focused the push of the opposite leg as doing all the work and the pull leg as just being along for the ride but there is work generated there. thanks for bringing my attention to that.
It’s important as you said if you’re cycling, running, hiking or doing an activity that demand so much from your legs to do the YTU therapy balls. The first time that I did it, it was so painful, but that pain make me aware about how I was overusing my legs and some time the traditional stretching are not enough. The use of sitting Seiza give our feet relife, allowing them recover the full range of motion.
Wonderful information! The gastroc get so overworked with improper shoes and proper shoes and just lots of use. I find that we often forget about the leg below the knee and its vast array of important muscles. Keeping “the little belly” happy is paramount for happy feet and happy feet is paramount for dancing gracefully through life!
I’ve been there with calf cramps and inflamed tissues in the calves. Massage with the therapy balls has been very important in my journey as a runner. The stretches are also beneficial. Sitting Seza provides great stretch post-run. I’ll also need to try the stretch in the video.
[…] Read our article about your calves. […]
A few months ago i was living on a beach biking to and from work every day. Many times at night I would have horrible leg cramps. I kept thinking I must have been dehydrated from the tropical heat, but in reading this article I’m having an ah ha moment. Of course my legs weren’t used to this biking, and of course I wasn’t doing any type of stretching to ease them into this new movement, so of course they were fighting back with cramping. Now I will be prepared when I head back down to the beach and my daily bike ride.
Heidi, you are so right! It is so important to take care of the lower leg the calves and especially the feet. Too often I see even weight training regimens that skip the calves all together; since most people tend to focus on toning the arms, abs and butt. Anyone that uses the legs should develop a self-care program that addresses getting all parts of the body ready for action. Then once we complete the activities we love, show those hard working muscles how much you love them. My running and cycling has never felt better with the use of the yoga tune up balls! I have seen the same results occur with a friend of mine that uses the tune up balls. She was plagued with terrible cramps, and although she still experiences them, they are far fewer than before she began the yoga tune up therapy!
And guess what else? When your calves are tight, your feet can hurt. Bad. Jill’s quickfix for feet an ankles is a huge help. A couple of other tips:
Starting in dandasana, put a YTU ball under one calf, then extend your arms behind you to the floor and lift yourself up, like you’re almost doing purvotanasana. The lower leg’s weight pours into the ball. You can use your nice strong triceps to drag your lower leg along the ball. I found this to be an alternative to having a ball squeezed between my upper and lower legs in sitting seza (I was only feeling the ball massaging my hamstring, instead of the gastrocnemius).
Also, try typical lunge-at-the-wall techniques like in the YTU lower body series, but experiment with the bend of the legs. Normally we let the knees be extended, which for me mostly stretches the hamstrings and the whole of the back of the leg. If you flex the knee a bit on the side that’s stepping back, you may find more of a stretch in the calf (gastroc and soleus). Then, try carefully rotating the spine in either direction, noticing if you get a slightly different sensation in the legs.
I have had sore calf pain from unused muscles, and could not get rid of it…Just used this static active stretch, and muscles are feeling much better thank you!
Thanks for the post. I used to dance a lot and occasionally take ballet classes that call for a lot of calf work (relevee’s and jumps). I will definitely try my YTU balls as I find that with the amount of flexibility I have in my achilles it makes it very diffucult to get any stretch in my calves. Much appreciated!
I now have to start with my self massage to my calves more diligently. I get restless leg syndrome, my own diagnosis and after learning new techniques I hope to find some more restfful nights.
IT, I scream for releif. oh my god IT pain for me. I have been sitting for far to long. My neck, my back, my knees and my wrist. A Yoga Tune Up is over due. Balls here I come. Please keep the good information coming. Thank you.
How great the timing of this information about the other belly! My client is suffering from achilles heel and calf pain. My client is a hiker and hill walker and has just started doing yoga. She is somewhat over weight and trying to change everything about her body in a healty positive way. I love that I can be a part of her positive change. Did I mention she also wears high hi…heels a lot! The belly stretch is so great. Thank you Jill.
Thanks for this post. After a Kundalini jumping jack exercise my calves were insanely painful for more than a week! Wish I had YTU Therapy balls then!
Thanks for the useful technique to stretch my calf. B.
Thanks for the suggestion to try the YTU balls on the calfs. I love taking the top of one foot down the calf while sitting back onto it. Large dowels down the calves are another great way to work out the tighteness.