Last June, I had a calf strain. Not the first time that has happened. My first go-around about 5 years ago became a repeated cycle of resting until it felt better (about two weeks), then re-injuring it the first time I started running again. I finally went through some physical therapy of lots of massage, strengthening, and a neoprene calf sleeve, and after over two months of this, I was finally cleared to start running again. START. Like I was starting from scratch.
So when it happened again this past June, I was bummed. I knew that I was in for a long recovery. But within a week, some one posted a link to a great article on Calf Heart Attacks. It goes into rehab and prevention, and step number two is to get as much massage as possible, even self-massage.
Enter the Pro-Tec Athletics Massage Roller. I'd been given a gift card to The Balanced Athlete in Renton, WA, and I went in to look for something that might help. There on a peg were a few of these massaging devices, and at only $25 (competing products go for up to $40), I considered it money well spent. Okay, considering I got it on a gift card, it was kind of free -- even better!
What is the Massage Roller? Well, it consists of a piece of PVC pipe with foam cylinders glued to the outside, with a wooden dowel through the middle providing handles. Instructions are provided to massage many areas of the body, including using the handles (also foam-covered) for pressure-point application.
Calf massages are simple. There's that word again... But they are, rolling the device over the calves in an upward motion, then repeating. You control the pressure, so there isn't that feeling of wanting to punch a massage therapist because it hurts soooo much. Though it does help to make sure the calves are relaxed...
I used it almost daily during my recovery from the calf strain, and within three weeks I was back on the road, and building back up to my previous mileage. Now, whenever I feel calf tightness coming on, I sit down on my mat and grab the Massage Roller and roll away for 10-15 minutes of pleasant agony. I suppose I should have it scheduled as part of my regular training regimen.
And if you're making the transition from "traditional" shoes with a 10mm drop or more to something more minimal, do yourself a favor and pick one of these up along with those new low-drop shoes.
Such a simple thing, the Massage Roller. And it really works. Right up there on the top ten best $25 I never spent...