How Do I Prevent Calf Soreness After Walking Hills?
My Calves Are Stiff
Dear K and A: I know you’ll probably faint, but having exercised for 1.5 hours TWO DAYS IN A ROW, I have a legitimate workout question. Yesterday and today a friend and I did a brisk, very hilly walk for an hour followed by 20 minute Pilates dvd workouts. Okay, that’s really 1.33 hours, so I exaggerate. It is now very clear to me that I did not stretch enough afterwards. My calves are getting really stiff. It was 2.5 hours ago that I stopped working out. Is there anything I can do now to help the lactic acid leave my calves? Help please! Liz, Goleta, CA
Alexandra: Why would I faint? I’m not the one who overdid it! I only go for walks on surfaces that are FLAT. Why would I want to sweat during my nice walk? If you want to get rid of stiffness, have your muscles practice public speaking. Or learn to become a better stretcher! Or ask to be carried down those hills on one! And what do you mean by “really hilly?” Is that a reference to a television reality show in which everyone must fend for themselves in a mountainous region (I define “mountainous” as anything rising above sea level)?
Kymberly: Well, as you probably noticed, we did not get the huge bribe gift for getting to your question via the super express rush deluxe insta-answer service. So let’s answer as if you were going to hike the hills again and wonder what to do next time. Hope you survived in the meantime.
Calf and Shin Action Uphill, Downhill, and on Flat Terrain
Alexandra: Miss Lizzie, when you walk downhill, your shin muscles (let’s call them Aunty Tibby – formal name is anterior tibialis) lengthen and your calves (let’s call them Bessie & Bossy – formal names are gastrocnemius & soleus) shorten. Shorten is nature’s way of saying “contract.” If you had gone for a flat, or even mildly hilly walk, your bleating calves wouldn’t be crying so much for Mama. But you have admitted, under no oath whatsoever, that your walk was “very hilly.” For the record, I too go for really long walks. I call it “going outside and getting lost, then accosting strangers to ask for a ride home.” Your brain said, “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day,” while your calves said, “shorten, lengthen, shorten, lengthen.” See how stiff your calves are in conversation?
Tip for Walking Uphill
Kymberly: Concerning stretching, Alexandra is onto something. Post walking, stretch your calves and imagination by holding a position whereby your toes are higher than your ankle. aka dorsiflexion. Hold it, hold it, hold it. Now switch legs. To make this successfully simple, Try the three calf stretches we show in our post, Prevent Shin Splints: 3 Calf Stretches.
Next, pay attention to your foot action as you go uphill. Did you bend at the ankle getting your heel to the ground with each stride? Good form going uphill means keeping your body vertical and accounting for the hill angle at the ankle joint by allowing your heel to make contact with the ground with each step. Pick that answer. Or did you basically head uphill on the balls of your feet, bending forward from the hip or spine, and having your heel hanging in space? If so, your calves were in contraction throughout the walk and transforming into steers of steel. No bull. And no wonder they are bellowing. (Check out “Proper Form for Uphill Walking” here).
Tip to Avoid Muscle Soreness Post Workout
To make this super simple: walk, walk, stretch, drink water, head home, sleep my pretty, sleep, wake, walk again until warm, stretch, call us in the morning. With that gift.
Alexandra: Kymberly is right; I am fresh. And onto something. Known as my stretched butt. DOMS – Don’t Offer Money to Sis.
Dear Readers: Have you ever experienced muscle soreness? What did you do about it? What do you wish DOMS stood for?
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA