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12

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

Dear Liz:
Alexandra in high weeds walking

Alexandra loves flat things – terrain, shoes, her chest

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

Mountain and view at Ranch

Climb Every Mountain

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

And now for the big finish: next time — and there will be a next time doncha know — really break your record and do something cardio for a third day in a row. Yes, walk again within 24 hours even if only for 10 minutes so that you elevate your core temperature and minimize muscle soreness. Fancy names and accurate terms cost extra. But for you — free today. The term is DOMS – Delayed Onset of Muscles Soreness. Or – Darn Old Muscles–Stretch!.  When you suddenly up the ante on muscle use (different from “Aunty Tibby), those muscles are prone to soreness. But if you reheat them before DOMS sets in, you reduce that stiffness. And I am all about reheating unless Alexandra is cooking. Then I get it fresh.

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.

Rancho la Puerta oak grove and chimes

Chime in with what you think DOMS should stand for after a hike or walk.

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

2

Pain in the Butt–My Trainer That Is

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: K and A:

I went through some serious medical issues in the last 5 years. But now that I am able to, I would like to find my girlish figure that is hidden somewhere in here. I know it will take some hard work & commitment. But I’m ready. I met with a personal trainer. I told him my goal is to lose weight & get toned up. I thought cardio was good but P(ersonal) T(rainer) said it is only 10% to reach my goal. 40% is weight training or resistance training. And of course 50% is nutrition. He had me do some squats & sit ups on a ball. (poor ball) I’ve been sore for 3 days. I can’t afford the personal trainer. Plus I think he has it in for me… If I keep doing the things he has shown me will the pain subside??? Thanks for the help.

Susie, Las Vegas

K: So your girlish figure turned churlish on you and now it’s time to turn back? Fun and Fit like your attitude! First, let’s do some magic math. Assuming your girlish figure is hiding under some matronly (we could say “Rubenesque“) fat, I prefer 25% cardio, 25% resistance training, 50% good nutrition and 100% laughing along with Fun and Fit twice a week when we publish new posts. That adds up to rollicking times in and out of the gym!

Given your trainer budget, do cardio training on your own as often as feasible and tolerable. Avoid getting too hung up on numbers, including our magic ones above. Unless it’s a phone number of your girlish figure calling to say she wants to get together, then hang up. If you can afford the trainer a little while longer, make the investment in learning strength training as it will pay off. You can avoid more pain (and frustration) having a professional teach you upper body, lower body, and core exercises. If you cannot afford a trainer, hie thee hiney hence to group classes. So effective, so supportive, so affordable, so many ideas to keep you exercising!

A: Stop worrying about the pain as it will subside. Unless you live with Kymberly. Your muscles are adapting to the fact that you are asking them to pay rent after letting them mooch off you free for years. As long as the pain is not in your joints, you are fine. If your trainer is just the right combination of sadism and compassion, your muscles should be somewhat sore after every session! You wouldn’t pay him to let you lie in the sun would you? While we’re on the topic of numbers, I want to encourage you to pay less attention to your scale (at least for the first few months) and more attention to your clothing size. The speed at which you gain muscle strength (and mass) and lose fat is not exactly equal, so you might not enjoy the scale for a while. I mention this in a purely caring, I Hate Scales, kind of way.

As we are both group exercise instructors, we are mucho partial to that form of exercise. Read the class descriptions, choose one that does not have these words–advanced, extreme, high, super, energetic, or killer–and get in there. You can wear your baggiest shmatte so don’t worry about the clingy wear at all. Inform the teacher before class starts that you are a beginner. Say you are nervous. Say you want to be right in front so she or he can keep an eye on you. Allude ever so casually to your medical issues if they will affect your heart rate or ability to remain upright. Tell yourself you’ll do 20 minutes, then stay for 30. Let your teacher know with a smile and thumbs up that you are leaving early because you made it this far. We teacher types get nervous if we think people are leaving early so they can go pass out in the locker room. Oh, while you’re in the locker room, look in the mirror and say “Yay-ess! I did it. And will keep on doing it.” We have no idea what “it” is, but have gotten lots of entertainment out of seeing suckers students do this!

Pained Readers: Do you remember first starting out an exercise program? What do you recall about it? And do you like paintings by Rubens?