Integral Running Muscles
The gastrocnemius and soleus are 2 separate muscles in the lower limb of your leg and together are known as the calf muscles. The main action of both of these is to plantar flex the foot/ankle. In other words to push you on your toes. The tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone (calcaneus) is called the Achilles tendon. Together these three are an integral part in running mechanics. So it goes without saying that special attention needs to be given too this muscles and tendons.
simultaneously act as the gas and brake pedal on a run. Need to push up a steep hill? Those are your calf muscles called into action. Need to slow it up during the descent on the other side? These muscles makes sure you don’t face plant on the way down. The main action of these muscles is plantar flexion, which is the movement of going up on your toes, one of the most important actions in running. So it goes without saying these muscles need to be looked after and cared for.
Below are my favourite three calf stretches. Each can be done at home with minimal equipment.
Standing wall Calf stretch
- Stand arm’s length away from the wall. Step one foot back and bend the front knee slightly.
- Push your hands into the wall, as you lower your back make sure the heel of the rear leg stays down. Push your hips forward to get a full stretch. Keep your back leg straight.
- Switch legs and repeat.
- Hold for 12 seconds x 3
Key points: This stretch targets your gastrocnemius (calf) and increases ankle flexibility. Can be done anywhere.
Soleus wall stretch
- Stand facing a wall with your hands chest level.
- With both knees slightly bent and one foot back, gently lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in your lower calf (soleus).
- Angle the toes of your back foot slightly inward and keep your heel down on the floor.
- Hold this for 12 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat 3 times on each leg.
Key points: An integral running muscle and neglected by many. The better you get the further away from the wall you will move.
Towel calf stretch
- Sit on a hard surface with one leg stretched out in front of you.
- Loop a towel or band around your toes and the ball of your foot and pull the towel toward your body keeping your knee straight. A gentle pull is ok.
- Hold this position for 12 seconds then relax. Repeat 3 times on each leg.
These are the three best calf stretches for runners in my opinion and were an integral part of my training regime. If you have other stretches that you like then reach out.