I Run Around

Running is the most natural form of exercise

Upcoming Races

Signed up for two races today! I am so excited.

In addition to next weekend, which is the Young Life 5k


I am doing:

13K Allegheny Adventure Trail Run in May


and the Earth Day 4.22 mile run


I sketched out my training plan today and can’t wait to get started! I have a race two weeks in a row then am off for a week before the big trail run. It seems like a lot in a short time but as long as I stick to my training and am a little forgiving with myself, i know I can do it.

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Progress report

Yesterday at the gym I ran 2 miles in 20:31 at an average pace of 10’14″/mile and today I ran 2.01 miles in 19:47 at a pace of 9’47″/mile.  Both ran on the treadmill and data collected by the Nike+ running app.

On yesterday’s run I cranked up the speed rather quickly into the run and tried to maintain my pace. After about a mile I grew a little tired and took a minute walk break. After which I slowly increased my speed to about a 5 on the treadmill.

Today I started off slow and gradually increased my speed every two minutes until the last 5 minutes where I increased my speed every minute. I find running faster is easier. After about a minute of running at a faster speed my body gets used to it and it becomes more of a rhythm. I try to keep a quick cadence, never spending too much time on my feet.

I like increasing my speed at the end. It makes the run feel good, like I really worked and it’s great training for a race.

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A little gastro help

Gastrocnemius Muscle Strains || Massage Therapy Articles

Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, November/December 2010. Copyright 2010. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.


The gastrocnemius is one of the most easily visible muscles in the human body–the structure that gives the calf its characteristic bulging shape. It is this shape that inspired the name of the muscle: “belly of the leg,” from the Greek gaster (belly) and kneme (leg).


The gastrocnemius is a two-jointed muscle, with two halves, or heads–one medial (Image 1A) and one lateral (Image 1B)–that originate at the femur at the back of the lower thigh. Beneath it lies the soleus muscle (Image 1C), which holds the real strength and power in the calf. These two muscles help you to stand, walk, run, and rise up on the balls of your feet. Both are attached to the back of the calcaneous by the Achilles tendon (Image 1D). In this article, we will focus on the gastrocnemius muscle, which is injured a bit more often than the soleus.


How And Why These Injuries Occur

Picture yourself walking around on the ball of your foot, unable to put your heel down. That’s what you would look like if you had a severely strained gastrocnemius muscle. The story I hear most often from people with this injury goes something like this: “I got this pain in my calf a week ago while I was playing ball. I just thought it would go away, so I kept on playing. Now I can’t put my heel down when I walk most of the time. It hurts too much.”


Alternatively, a gastrocnemius muscle tear can happen suddenly, with a snap. A client might say, “It felt like somebody hit me with a racket across my calf, but when I turned to see, no one was there.”


For a person with this injury, walking is uncomfortable and any greater exertion may cause pain. When pain is extreme, there can be a tear in the muscle so wide that it leaves a half-inch gap you can feel when you run your finger over the calf. In these cases, simply standing with the heel down is excruciating. Usually, though, the fibers are torn only microscopically and the person can stand without pain; it’s being more active that makes it hurt.


While it’s typical for just one head of the muscle to be torn, occasionally both are injured simultaneously. The pain can be felt medially or laterally, or in both places, and is perceived as occurring somewhere near the surface, rather than deep inside the calf. In chronic cases that have healed poorly, the injury gets alternately better and worse. The worst bouts of pain may last as long as six months, because it’s difficult to function without walking, yet walking keeps re-injuring the torn fibers.


To understand why and how the calf became strained in the first place, you need to look at the total picture–including the person’s full body alignment, habitual movement patterns, type of work, and so forth. For example, in an individual with a forward-head posture, the weight of the body is transferred forward, placing more strain on the calf muscles. To get a sense of this, try standing up and moving your head forward about 2 inches. Notice what happens to the stress in your calf muscles. If you’re able to analyze the underlying cause(s) of the injury, you can help the client take

steps so that it doesn’t happen again.1


Often, there are multiple causes of this type of injury. Apart from body use and alignment, other common contributing factors include excess muscle tension in the lower legs, lack of calf flexibility, inadequate warm-up before workouts, and general fatigue in the legs–particularly when any of these is combined with overexertion.


Injury Verification

One sure sign of this injury is that the client can’t stand with the leg straight and the heel on the ground, and can only walk on the ball of the foot. When sitting, the person can flex the foot much more easily with the knee bent than with it fully extended. If the pain is so bad that the client can’t put the heel down on the ground while standing, perform Test 2 instead of Test 1.


Test 1. Heel Raises (Standing)

Perform this test only if the client’s pain is mild to moderate (not severe). Have the person stand with the feet parallel and knees straight, and then rise way up onto the balls of the feet (Image 2). Be sure that the client’s knees stay straight. When the knee is bent, the gastrocnemius relaxes and the soleus muscle does most of the work. If there is no pain, do the same test standing only on the injured leg. In the case of a gastrocnemius injury, this test will cause pain. Tell the client to stop and bring the heels back down as soon as pain is felt, which may occur after rising up only an inch off the ground. You’re testing to determine whether there is pain, not how bad it gets.


Test 2. Resisted Plantar Flexion (Supine)

For individuals who have severe pain, use this test instead of the standing heel raises. Place your fist or palm under the metatarsals with the foot in partial dorsiflexion (Image 3). Ask the client to try to plantar flex the foot, moving very gently in case there is a severe tear. As soon as pain is felt, stop the test; you have the information you need.


Treatment Choices


No matter how mild the injury, have the client rest and take care not to return to full activity too soon. Throughout the healing process, it’s important to keep the heel elevated. This puts the gastrocnemius into a relaxed position so that it does minimal work while the soleus takes over. The person either can wear heeled shoes or boots all the time, or else can purchase some felt or moleskin (available from drugstores) and make a thick pad to fit in the heel area of each shoe. This method only works if the pad can be thick enough so that standing and walking no longer cause pain. Depending on the extent of the injury, it may be necessary to use as much as 1-1 1/2 inches of padding (not easy to do in most shoes). The two heels should be elevated equally, so the body isn’t lopsided.


Icing the calf repeatedly throughout the day may also be helpful. From a sitting position, have the client apply ice or a cold pack to the affected area for 10 minutes or so and then alternately flex and extend the foot. At first, the knee may be slightly bent if necessary to do the exercise without discomfort. (No pain should be felt during these movements.) The goal is to be able to comfortably extend and flex the foot with the leg, almost or entirely straight within a week or so.


When the calf is feeling better, have the client perform the following rehabilitative exercises, two or three times a day. It’s important to keep moving so that scar tissue doesn’t form where it shouldn’t. Movement during healing helps cut down on adhesive scar tissue formation and helps the muscle stay flexible.


Friction Therapy And Massage

In moderate cases, friction therapy and massage, combined with the self-treatment measures already outlined, will speed healing and help minimize scar tissue formation. However, in cases of recent injury with severe pain, a doctor should be seen and treatment should not commence until three or four days after the injury.


Friction therapy of the gastrocnemius muscle is performed with the person lying in a prone position. Place three or four fingertips over the area of pain, press anteriorly, move with moderate force through the muscle fibers at a 90 angle, and then drag back to the starting position. Repeat this friction movement continuously for 5-6 minutes. Take a break for a minute or so and do the same thing again. You know you are using the right amount of pressure if the client feels mild, annoying discomfort, not pain. After performing the friction therapy, apply effleurage massage to the calf, posterior thigh, foot, anterior thigh, and shin to increase circulation throughout the entire limb.



After two weeks of hands-on treatment, gentle stretching should begin, provided that it can be done without pain. This allows for continued healing in the presence of a full range of motion. Start by performing assisted stretches on the gastrocnemius muscle (Image 4). While holding the heel with your fingers, have the person actively pull the toes toward the knee as far as possible. Then, using your forearm, gently take him or her a bit farther for up to 2 seconds. Do not hold the stretch at the end; instead, move slowly and gently, in a continuous motion. When you have completed the stretch, ask the person to extend the foot and repeat the process 8-10 times. Then, have the person evert the foot and perform the same stretch 8-10 times. Finally, repeat with the foot inverted. This gets all the different fibers to participate in the stretching action. (This method of stretching is taken from the Active Isolated Stretching method developed by Aaron Mattes.) After doing this successfully in a few sessions, teach the person how to do the same thing by himself or herself on a daily basis, using a rope or strap of some sort.



After the acute pain has subsided and the person can walk without discomfort, initiate a strength program for the calves. Start with heel raises on both feet simultaneously, with more weight placed on the good leg if sharing the weight equally is too stressful on the injured leg. Over a few weeks, have the client transfer more and more weight to the injured leg until the heel raises can be performed on the injured leg only.


Once the person can perform three sets of 10 heel raises on both legs without pain or fatigue, begin to vary the exercise. Use three different angles–feet parallel, turned slightly inward, and turned slightly outward–with 10 repetitions in each position, for a total of 30. When the client can do these variations easily with the knees straight, add all the same exercises done with the knees bent. That makes a total of 60 reps. In the final stage, the client then repeats this same set of exercises with the balls of the feet on a step, so that the heels can go below the forefoot. This enables the gastrocnemius to move through its full range of motion as it increases in strength.


A Straightforward Path To Healing

Once you have a solid understanding of gastrocnemius injuries, they are relatively easy to assess and treat. There are just a few important principles to remember. As mentioned earlier, be sure to have the person see a physician and wait at least three days after the injury has occurred to gently begin treatment. This allows the initial healing to take place without interference. Emphasize the importance of keeping the heels elevated, so the gastrocnemius muscle can relax. Also work to ensure that the client moves the calf through a full range of motion, on a daily basis, in order to maintain full flexibility and help prevent future injuries from occurring. With proper self-care and appropriate treatment, most gastrocnemius muscle tears can heal within 4-6 weeks.


Ben E. Benjamin, PhD, holds a doctorate in education and sports medicine. He is founder of the Muscular Therapy Institute. Benjamin has been in private practice for more than 45 years and has taught communication skills as a trainer and coach for more than 25 years. He teaches extensively across the country on topics including orthopedic massage, Active Isolated Stretching and Strengthening, SAVI communications, and ethics, and is the author of Listen to Your Pain(Penguin, 2007), Are You Tense? (Pantheon, 1978), and Exercise Without Injury (MTI, 1979), and coauthor of The Ethics of Touch (Sohnen-Moe Associates, 2003). He can be contacted at 4bz@mtti.com.



1. There are trainings available that enable massage therapists to become experts in this kind of analysis. For information, visit www.goprimalfitness.com.


Editor’s note: Massage & Bodywork is dedicated to educating readers within the scope of practice for massage therapy. Essential Skills is based on author Ben E. Benjamin’s years of experience and education. The column is meant to add to readers’ knowledge, not to dictate their treatment protocols.

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Today’s run

Today's run

Ran 2 miles today at the gym in my Vibrams. Interesting, I used my Nike+ app and the data I collected on their is different from the data collected on the treadmill. I ran faster and completed the mileage sooner according to my app than the treadmill said. I always wondered how accurate the treadmills were. I’m going with my Nike+ app from now on!

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Running Goals 2013

I’ve seen a few running blogs with goals set up for the year and they inspired me to do the same!

1. Run a 5k

2. Run another 5k

3. Run an 8k

4. Run another 8k

5. Run a 10k

6. Run another 10k

7. Find my running rhythm – where running is “easy”

8. Speed up at the end of all my races

9. Cross train to become a better runner

10. Do a half marathon!

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Upcoming events

In about two weeks I’ll be racing, or should I say running, in the Young Life 5k. I haven’t signed up for anything else after that. I’m toying around with a few ideas. There is an earth day run for 4.22 miles (get it?), there are a few trail runs coming up that I would like to try and I definitely want to get a couple more longer runs in like an 8k or 10k. Maybe even towards the end of the year, in the late fall when it starts to cool down, I’ll sign up for a half marathon. That has been my goal since I started running again last year.

For a while I trained on the treadmill then early this year I started running outside. I went back to the gym for a while but it was really hard to run on the treadmill. It’s not quite natural. Just like rock climbing indoors won’t really prepare you for outside, running on a treadmill is simulated running. It’s been hard to go back. I planned on going  yesterday and today but things just didn’t work out…..if you know what I mean. It’s been snowing outside too and even though I’ve been doing winter races, I don’t feel a huge amount of motivation to get out that sans race. I’m a bum!

But, when I do back to the gym, which will most likely be tomorrow afternoon, I’m going to be wearing my five fingers. They provide a pretty good run. Aside from my feet swelling and not having enough room to expand in to, they do help with my form and foot placement. Last summer I ran outside barefoot. Once I got used to the ground feel (aka pain of tiny sidewalk topography you never knew was there) I had a pretty enjoyable time. I was moving pretty fast and didn’t have any foot or soleus/gastro pain. I had been battling the soleus/gastro pain for a while. My legs weren’t  used to doing the work that forefoot landing requires. After the 8k I did a few weeks ago I haven’t had any trouble with those muscles either before, during or after a run.

The other thing that waters down my motivation is that I have been able to show up to a race and do relatively fine without preparing much. When that happens it becomes easy to tell yourself while your watching another episode of Mad Men “oh, I’ll be fine. I don’t have to prepare too much to have a good run”. Bad!!!

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Bunny Hop 5k 2013

A few of my friends and I signed up for the Bunny Hop 5k, a race the day before Easter. A few weeks ago I had completed the Nike Women’s 10k then promptly got sick. I had the flu and it took me almost a week to recover. That meant I only had a week left to train for the bunny hop. Between all of my responsibilities and being sick, I pretty much did no running in between the 10k and the 5k. I was still feeling a little run down the day of the race but knowing that my two friends were going to be there was motivational enough for me to start getting ready.

There were over 2000 runners in this race! The streets were clogged for quite a while until people started breaking away. The roads wound through the countryside overlooking beautiful vistas of forest, grassland and old farms. At one farm there were three very large white animals. From a distance I thought they were sheep but when I was getting close to the pasture I could tell they were dogs! Very big, very furry white dogs. They were beautiful. Every so often a family would be sitting out in their driveway cheering us on. More than a few people were dressed up with bunny ears, bunny tails, easter colored outfits and there was a santa claus! A little too early buddy!

This course was very hilly too, which ended up making us walk every so often. My friend had eaten right before the race and could feel her breakfast sloshing around in her stomach as she ran. That along with her cramps made her run less than enjoyable for her. I felt bad for her. Me, on the other hand, I was running pretty strong, moving faster than I normally do.

I bought a new running shirt to wear during the race. Up until now I could wear my cold weather gear but it was in the 50’s that day so I didn’t want to over heat. The other shirts I have are short sleeved but the stitching would irritate my new tattoo. I found a 3-quarter length running shirt at Target that would wick moisture, cover my tattoos from the sun and prevent my arm from chafing. Perfect!

Even though I had my new shirt on, it still got pretty warm. There has been a point in every race I’ve done so far where I wish I could peel layers off!

After about 2 miles of up hill we turned and started back downhill. Past the pastures and vistas. Past the crazy  huge dogs that now  had dirty bellies from playing in the mud. Down the hill to the next curve and it was a straight shot home. With quite a ways left I started kicking. And kicking. It was the longest I had ever sprinted so far. It seemed as though every kick  I took the clock got faster! I was running as fast as I can and it seemed like I was in slow motion! If I could just get to the finish line before another second passed! The clock just kept ticking forward.

This was was great because I had a very slight cramp that didn’t really bother me, I was able to sprint from a farther distance to the finish line, my soleus and gastro didn’t hurt once and my feet felt great!

I have another race in two weeks and I’m certainly going to practice running before that one. I would like to get faster someday.  I find that no matter how much you train that each race is going to be different and you really shouldn’t critique yourself too much on performance. One race could be flat, nice weather, you feel great. Another race could be too warm, hilly, you don’t feel good. All the training you do still doesn’t control for everything that could happen on race day. The goal is to be okay with that.

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Nike Women’s 10k

I signed up online to do the Nike Women’s 10k ! With your Nike+ running gear, whether it’s the app, the pod or whatever, you track your runs, run 6.2 miles and upload it to the Nike+ webpage on a certain date. I like to think of it as a global 10k. Wherever you are, as long as you can track and upload, and pay the registration fee, you can participate! I ran with thousands of women all across the world.

In my last post I had said that 8k was the farthest I had ever run. Now I can upgrade that to 10k! I found the perfect loop around my neighborhood – It was exactly 6.22 miles, got my sneakers on, had my Nike+ app on and took off. This time I didn’t warm up or stretch, I just started running. That, I found, was not the most useful plan. The first few miles were tough. I felt uncoordinated, tired, and struggling. After a couple of miles of this I decided to walk for a few minutes. That definitely helped my body acclimatize to what I wanted it to do. After walking I was able to continue running most of the way home.

It was a nice day out, about 50 degrees. I warmed up quickly. Occasionally there was a breeze which was a nice natural air conditioner. Once I broke myself in after about 3 miles the running became easier, I found my stride and rhythm and found it almost to be no work at all to keep going. I love when the running gets like that. Its just a natural movement that your body can sustain over long periods of time. Your breathing is in sync, your legs feel good. Your feet feel like they are landing on air.

At mile 4.5 I was flying. Feeling the fresh air move through my lungs powering my exertion. Sometimes I like to think of my body as a car and the air as my fuel. When I get into a tough spot when running, either mentally or physically, I think of the air moving through my lungs, my diaphragm pulling the air in, my circulatory system sending the air energy through my body, powering it to keep moving forward. It gets me through.

I started up a long low hill. Those can be worse than the short steep hills. The low gradient isn’t usually too bad to maintain but after a long while, when you’re getting close to the top it feels like you don’t have enough glucose for your muscles to finish the hill off. So, close to the top of that long low hill I had to walk. About 30 feet or so and I made it to the top. I  made a deal with myself that I would let myself walk to the top of the hill then I had to start running again. Running  at the top of the hill was great because the land flattened out and in the distance it would start to move downhill.

My feet were taking a pounding as I was moving downhill but I didn’t complain because of the speed I was achieving. I’m not normally a fast runner so when I get some speed, even if it’s help from the earth, I take it.

When I got down the hill it was time to turn the corner and start heading home. Our street is quiet and I was able to enjoy the overhanging trees and greenery in peace. The entire run took me about 1 hr and 30 minutes. I felt so thrilled with myself that I accomplished that long distance.

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Shamrock Run 8k 2013

This past March my running partner and I completed the Shamrock run. It was an 8k around the older parts of the city. The weather wasn’t too bad. I think it was in the high 20’s or low 30’s. It felt colder than the past couple of runs I had done. We were located close to the water so that might have been why. A lot of wind comes through that area of town. That’s why it’s a good place for windmills!

There were a ton of people at this race, the facility was very congested. I left early but got caught up in traffic and ended up getting there with 30 minutes to spare. Just enough time to park, run to the hall, check in, try to find my friend, use the bath room, run to the car and back and say hi to a few people. I was having trouble finding my friend and was worried I’d be running without her. But at the last minute I looked behind me and there she was!

We got into place at the back of the pack, tied our timing chips on and did a few stretches. Then it was time to start running! We ran past the start line and were on our way. A few of our friends from work ran by us, that was the last we saw of them during the race. It was down a street, around a corner and then up and down a big hill. I tend to speed up on the hills. I like the challenge and feeling my legs working. Down the hill and around the corner heading to the first water stop. It wasn’t just a water stop – there was beer there too!! The race was already hard, I didn’t want to make it harder on myself so I skipped the beer and grabbed a water. Boy was it cold and splashing on my cold hands! Yikes. Took a few sips then left the bottle on a curb. Too cold to carry.

We stayed mostly with one group of people, passing a few here and there as the race went on. Around a few more corners up another couple of hills then down to the last 2 miles. I was pretty warm up until the last 1.5 miles then I started to go numb. The last section of the course took us closer to the water and down a scenic path, past the grain silos and conservation club and down the last road. We hit the last mile and started running faster trying to come in with a good time. All in all we ran for about an hour to finish the mileage. It was a good race. Right before the finish line I started to cramp up and couldn’t take real deep breaths. After I crossed the finish line I kept walking for a while afraid I would cramp up even more if I stopped moving. By this time most of my warmth was gone. My friend had brought an extra jacket, which was good for her, but I was getting minimal and only brought what I had on.

There was a huge after party. We stayed for a while then headed home. The 8k was the longest I had run ever! We ran the whole time and I felt strong. It was great!

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Grumpy Cat

Grumpy Cat

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