Let’s talk about the single biggest problem that affects runners.
Nagging calf pain that just doesn’t go away.
(…Even after months of resting!).
Can you relate to this?…
“Tony– every 6 months or so for the last 3 years, I get a nagging pain in my left calf when I go out for a run, which then leads to a terrible sensation in the back of my leg that feels like I’ve been shot!
This always seems to happen when my training is going to plan and I’m making progress.
I’ve been running for years, and my calf has never had a pain so bad like this up until recently.
So why does it keep coming back? And will it ever go away?”
– Andy, 46, Mahopac.
Ok… let me try and talk you through this and why something as frustrating as calf pain, likely keeps happening and what you can do about it.
I see this all the time with runners who come to my clinic… they’ve been running for years then all of a sudden *ping!*, the pain comes out of nowhere.
And it’s not usually to do with how much they run, what surfaces they run on, or even if they get regular massages to keep the aches and pains away…
…9 times out of 10, it’s to do with what you wear on your feet.
Let me explain:
If you’re like many runners, you’ve likely been putting in the miles wearing the same pair of running shoes for years, OR, you’ve treated yourself to a new pair of running shoes without realizing that they’re not the right ones for your feet.
Not your fault, you didn't know!
But have you ever thought about how many miles your running shoes have actually done, and how worn down they’ve become?
You see, I often tell my patients to replace their running shoes for every 600 miles that they do. And I know that sounds like a lot! But when you run regularly, you’ll be surprised just how easy it is to build that many miles up!
So, if you’re suffering from the mysterious calf issue that comes out of nowhere, it may just be down to your favorite pair of running shoes.
So what can you do to finally put an end to the pain?
Get yourself something custom made, especially for you, that supports your feet 100 times better than any pair of running shoes you’ve owned – A pair of custom Orthotics.
You’re probably wondering what they are…
Custom foot Orthotics ARE the most accurate non-weight bearing molds of your feet.
They’re designed to control alignment and function of your feet in order to treat and prevent injuries – this means that when you wear them while running, your feet are completely stable and supported so they never roll inwards or outwards, meaning no risk of triggering off an injury.
So my big tip is this: Take a look at your running shoes. How long have you been running in them for? If it’s been years then now is the time to get yourself a new pair and consider getting your very own pair of custom Orthotics, to reduce the likely hood of the bothersome calf strain from coming back once and for all!
I don’t know about you but each week since the weather has been getting warmed, I’ve been invited out to eat in restaurants at least twice a week, if not more!
And even though eating out at restaurants is usually blamed as a culprit for making it harder to make healthy choices and stick to our new eating habits – you can still have your cake and eat it too.
Which is why I wanted to share some suggestions with you today about how you can eat healthier in restaurants so you can keep on the right track with your health goals.
It starts with restaurant selection – making healthy choices starts with where you’re eating. Menus from American, Italian and Chinese restaurants tend to heave the least healthiest options.
When deciding where to go for dinner, opt for cuisines centered around whole grains, veggies, good fats and lean protein (Greek, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian and Japanese), and you’ll have a more nutritious meal.
Also consider eating out at places with menus that change seasonally, as this means they’re likely to cook up fresh, seasonal, local produce. Not only does that make for more veg-heavy meals, but you’ll also notice how much better the food tastes too.
But what if your partner and friends don’t want to go to one of those restaurants?
Well, there’s a solution for that. Think leftovers.
If the Italian restaurant in the town is the only place your friends want to go, you don’t have to just order the salad…
While portion sizes have grown over the years that doesn’t mean you have to skip past the meal you’ve been eyeing up on the menu. Instead take advantage of the bigger portion sizes, and order what you want with the mindset that half of it will come home with you.
The best leftovers are ones that won’t suffer from re-heating or hanging out in your fridge for a day. Think meaty steaks, creamy pasta dishes and rich risottos.
Plus, when you have leftovers you’re getting a two-for-one deal, and it feels great to save a bit of money.
The next piece of advice I want to give you is this, even if you’re going out for an evening meal, eat all day long as you usually would.
Seriously. If you know you’ll be eating at a place that serves rich food and big portions, one of the best ways to avoid overdoing it isn’t to ‘make room’ for dinner later, but to eat (as you normally would) throughout the day.
Your body isn’t balanced when you’re hungry, and skipping meals to make up for a big one can cause all sorts of havoc with the body – including storing MORE weight.
So aim to eat a filling, healthy breakfast, a light lunch and some healthy snacks. It’ll be easier to resist more indulgence if you do.
Another thing, you know that bread basket a lot of restaurants bring out while you’re deciding on what to order that’s always tempting? You don’t need it.
If you really want to snack on something before your main meal is served – opt for a lighter starter like a prawn cocktail, or stuffed mushrooms. Save room for the nutritious meal you’ve ordered and cut down on calories too.
And one more tip, if you want your food cooked a certain way to make it healthier, most of the time you can!
Don’t be afraid to put in a special request. Instead of my chicken fried, I sometimes ask for it to be grilled or roasted. Most places are willing to adapt their meals to suit your taste. It’s amazing how much power we have as diners that we never realize we can use.
So there you have it! Simple ways to make eating out healthier and enjoyable at the same time. Sticking to a healthy diet doesn’t mean you have to avoid dining out and say no to plans.
It’s all about making different choices, and enjoying the food we put in our mouths. Restrictions will only make it harder in the long-run, and make it more likely for you to sway off track.
Here’s to sticking to healthier choices!
With running season firmly in swing… let me answer this question that a previous patient emailed me.
“Tony… I meet with my friend twice this week to do some running up hill in an attempt to lose weight.
I’ve woken up the next day on both occasions with a sore Achilles and a stiff back – both worsening each time
Am I doing something wrong? And what are your thoughts on running up hills? Many people I talk to are of mixed opinions so I thought I’d ask you”.
Linda – 40’s, Brewster.
This is one of the most common mistakes I observe runners make.
Let me explain why:
You’re not designed to run up hills. And we don't need too, to keep fit or lose weight. Sure, you might work a bit harder by running up a bank or a hill, but you’re adding a lot of stress to lower back muscles and Achilles tendon muscles by doing so.
I agree – that if you were in training for something that involved lots of steep hills that doing this type of thing would likely be beneficial to achieving the goal. But here’s why it’s likely to do more harm than good...
When you run or even walk up hills, your natural instinct is to lean forwards to make it easier to get up. When you do this, your lower back muscles have to work 10x as hard. And that’s no exaggeration!
Standing up and leaning over or bending forwards for any sustained period of time will add at least 10 times the stress to your lower back than if you stand up tall and straight.
Something to think about if you do that at work or even in the kitchen, or somewhere like that!
Your lower back muscles are getting very stressed. And if they’re not ready to cope with the extra stress, as in, they’re not strong enough because you haven’t been doing things like core stability or Pilates style exercises, then you will notice a negative affect.
As for your Achilles tendon… think of an elastic band being stretched too far. The tension created means it’s likely to snap and every time you stretch it too far, you’re closer to that “snap” actually happening because of the weakness that is being created.
When you’re leaning forwards, your Achilles tendon is always on a full stretch and means your likely to feel pain and tension by the end, or at very least the next day.
If that’s happening and it’s getting worse, you need to stop ASAP and find somewhere flat to run.
Here’s my first tip:
If you are going to run up hills or banks, stand as tall as possible and try to spend a month or so before hand working on balance ball, core and Pilates exercises to make your back stronger so that you can safely do it.
My second tip:
Weight loss is 80% what you eat, 20% what you do.
If your goal from running up hills is weight loss, I’d bet that you’ll end up putting weight ON. Why? Because you will get injured meaning a period of even less activity, meaning slightly more weight added. Believe me, there’s much easier ways to lose weight.
Believe it or not – most people spend too much time in bed.
And even more people make the mistake of thinking that more time in bed = more energy and feeling ready for the day.
Now I know getting out of bed can be tough!
The alarm goes off and for a moment and you just want to stay wrapped up in bed, warm and cozy, wishing you didn’t have to move, hitting the snooze button for ‘just 10 more minutes’.
Of course we get up after a while anyway, usually because we have to, but for many of us it’s a chore and sometimes it’s painful – but it’s a little known fact that spending more that 7-8 hours in bed isn’t good for us.
In fact, it’s unhealthy and a lack of knowledge on this topic is why most people lose the battle of the bedroom.
Some days might be different, but doesn’t the day nearly always start off on a bad note? Especially when the last thing you want to do is get out from under the covers, and then spend the little time you have rushing around to get ready…
But here’s why most people struggle on a morning and lose the ‘bedroom battle’…
A lack of vitamin D (sunlight), eating a balanced diet + spending extra time on the sofa every evening, with a lack of exercise…
…Which leads to the big mistake of thinking that the answer to more energy, is spending more time asleep.
That’s rarely the case. Unless there’s an underlying medical condition, you’re a new mom, or suffer from extreme sleep deprivation.
The reality is that more sleep doesn’t = more energy. It actually makes you feel more tired!
And because that’s the opposite of what most people want to feel each day, and because a lot of us despise getting out of bed in the morning, here’s some natural ways which can help you wake up of a morning – and there’s no coffee in sight
Find the light…
Melatonin is a hormone produced by your brain and regulates your sleep. When it’s dark your body produces more melatonin making you sleepy. When it’s light, the production of melatonin drops.
If you struggle to wake up, open your curtains to let the light in.
And if it’s winter when the clocks have gone back, so you wake up before the sun rises, give an illuminating alarm clock a go – you’ll be woken up naturally with light, and won’t be disturbed all of a sudden with a loud alarm noise!
Your body is made up of 60% water, but when you sleep you sweat, breathe and don’t drink for hour – which dehydrates you.
Dehydration reduces alertness, increases those tired feelings and affects mental concentration.
Before you go to bed place a glass of water beside you and down it as soon as you wake up.
I do this each morning, I have done for months, and I really feel the difference.
Start the day
with a healthy breakfast…
It’s been proven that people feel more alert after eating breakfast first thing in the morning.
If your breakfast is high in processed sugar, your energy will drop quickly.
But if you have a breakfast packed full of natural carbohydrates, fats and protein – alertness lasts longer throughout the morning.
(A favorite of mine is scrambled eggs on brown toast and a glass of
Listen to music…
Music has the ability to release feel-good chemicals throughout your body. Starting your day with your favorite up-beat tunes can get you moving, and is guaranteed to set your day off on a good note
This one probably sounds obvious but getting up to do something active in the morning gets your blood pumping and releases your feel-good chemicals.
It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise like a gym class or a run, it can be something simple like going for a gentle walk, or doing some stretches in the comfort of your own home.
To sum it up – when it comes to sleep, less is more.
On average you need 6-7 hours sleep each night, if you’re currently getting 9 or more, granted, any attempt to switch to less will leave you feeling groggy. But only at first.
If you stick at it for about 30 days, it’ll eventually become a habit that
leaves you feeling great with MORE energy.
And not only that, but you’ll also have MORE time in your life!…
Rising earlier could help you to exercise more and give you time to plan
and enjoy your day ahead, and even get the housework done in peace if
If you manage to make this a healthy habit by climbing out of bed just
ONE hour earlier each morning you will find spare time equivalent to an
entire week in your life. Every month.
Has this ever happened to you?
You’re going about your day doing your usual day-to-day jobs, you could be doing something as simple as taking the trash out, weeding the front garden, folding clothes or even changing the bed then all of a sudden you feel a sharp pain in your back and you can hardly move…
Just a few weeks ago this happened to one of our patients Charlotte, 57, from Patterson…
She was making the most of a quiet weekend, and before she decided to relax for the day she wanted to do some spring cleaning.
Charlotte was fine to begin with, but as soon as she went to turn over her mattress she put her back out completely.
At first the pain wasn’t so bad, but then a few hours later her back began to stiffen up…
Like most people we see she thought at first ‘oh it’s just a stiff back, I’ve probably got a bit carried away with the cleaning, it’s happened before.” But the next day the pain was still there, and it felt even worse!
Charlotte’s back started to ache when she sat down, she struggled to find a comfortable position to fall asleep in, and she couldn’t even bring herself to stand without being in agony AND she had a weekend away in Florida planned…
How was she going to get away now with a back so painful?…
Now you might be thinking this won’t happen to you, not with something as basic as everyday chores, but when you consider that most of us do some form of jobs around the house, that’s a lot of backs that could potentially become sore! And not just that, most people we see say they suffer from back pain when doing routine activities such as chores that cause flare-ups
The thing is, many people will ‘put up’ with a bad back for days (even weeks!), hoping the pain will go away on it’s own eventually, but you really don’t have to play the waiting game and suffer for so long – especially not if it’s getting in the way of daily life and even trips away and events that you’ve been looking forward to for ages!
So how about I give you three quick tips for everyday housework jobs to help make agonizing back pain a thing of the past – because chores themselves aren’t to blame (even though we’d like to think they are), it’s how you ‘do’ them.
1. When using the vacuum cleaner or a mop: one of the most common mistakes people make is reaching out with their arms while bending at the waist over and over again.
Bending over in awkward positions can place a lot of strain on your muscles – especially in your back! To help fix this the key is to keep your hips and shoulders moving towards the work.
What I mean by this is instead of leaning forwards and twisting your back, step forward in the direction of the movement with one foot and bend slightly at the knee, allowing your upper body to stay upright to reduce any strain.
2. When doing the laundry, picking up items and rescuing that lost sock from the bedroom floor, leaning over can trigger back pain – similar to sweeping and using the vacuum cleaner, bending at the waist repeatedly will strain your back muscles.
To get around this I tell my patients to do something I like to call the ‘golfer’s reach’, it has this name because it’s similar to how golfers pick up a ball.
When you reach for items with your right hand balance yourself by lifting your leg up in the air. If you need extra support, place your opposite hand on a nearby surface. If you’re reaching with your left hand, reverse the directions.
The deeper you reach with your hand, the higher your opposite leg should go so that you can keep your balance while simultaneously reducing the amount of strain on your back muscles.
3. One more thing, I know it can be easy to get caught up, rushing around the house to get everything done but one thing to remember is to be kind to yourself and take 20 minute breaks throughout. Brew some coffee and relax for a while before returning to your chores.
If you start feeling any signs of pain, walk, stretch and rest your back.
Don’t allow yourself to get so busy checking chore off of your to-do list that you forget the safe way to move your body.
Start using these tips, you’ll be keeping your back safe.
Dr. Tony Tanzi: Physical Therapist, Triathlete, Runner, Performance Coach