Prehab, Calf Knots, and Why I Love Physical Therapy

After a two-week break from running because of shin pain on a couple of runs, I had an appointment with my physical therapist, Todd. Todd is the same therapist who worked with me before my goal half marathon last fall and made sure I didn’t end up in a walking boot again from training incorrectly. He is extremely knowledgeable, and I ask him a lot of random questions when I see him:

Am I wearing these calf sleeves correctly? Can I wear them over the knee, like a fashionable full-leg sleeve, or nah?

Can I use the foam roller on my shins too, or is that weird?

Is Pilates really working or am I just wasting my time?

Sometimes, and I’ll be the first to admit this, we treat our medical professionals (especially those who are athletes treating athletes) as though they are all-knowing oracles with supreme insight into every aspect of our running futures. I feel a little silly when I do this, but it never hurts to ask questions and it beats freaking out and Googling every ache to death.

During our visit, Todd was able to point out a few hits and misses with my last three months of running, and it was reassuring to talk to him as I head into spring and summer training. Here’s what I had been doing well:

  • Running consistently throughout the winter, with at least one run outside each week. A good mix of treadmill and pavement runs made the transition to more outdoor mileage in nicer weather much easier on my joints, tendons, and muscles.
  • Wearing the right shoes. Asics GT-1ooo/2000 are the shoes that were made for my flat feet, and the gel-cushion inserts I have work really well for my foot type.
  • Steady mileage build-up. I built up my weekly miles very carefully, avoiding wild swings and building in enough time for recovery.

Areas for improvement:

  • Not enough targeted strength training. I have a very strong back and quads, but I need to work on my hips and glutes. These two areas are the first to give out on longer runs, leading my body to overcompensate and overuse other areas.
  • Recovery. I need to do more foam-rolling and icing after exercising, and wear compression during and after my runs.
  • Replacing my shoes! This is huge. I will wear the same shoes until I log about 500 miles on them. Applying this rule of thumb to someone with very unique needs (flat feet) doesn’t exactly work, as I am a bit harder on my shoes and wear through them more quickly than the average runner with more pronounced arches. I should rotate a couple of pairs as well.

My physical therapist also found a giant knot in my left calf muscle – I had no idea it was there. After some targeted massage work, I felt like I had a new pair of legs! I’m glad that I visited and had someone else look at my biomechanics so I can stay healthy and continue to train. I have some big running goals – they even scare me a little – but it’s wise to do some prehab work and regular check-ins with a physical therapist even when I’m not seriously hurt, before a small issue turns into something larger. One of my favorite running blogs, Run Selfie Repeat, has a great post on why physical therapy is beneficial.


Do you currently see a physical therapist? Have you ever visited one?


2 thoughts on “Prehab, Calf Knots, and Why I Love Physical Therapy

    • thepapillonrunner says:

      Far from a professional, which is why I never thought I’d need a physical therapist or personal trainer, seeing as this is just a hobby. But if you want to improve at something that can be pretty strenuous on your body, I’m finding it isn’t a bad idea. My next half-marathon is in July, but I may do a tune-up 10k or half-marathon in May or June. Thanks for stopping by!


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