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I just started running again, all last week and again today. I start off slow, then increase the speed gradually. Very shortly into it my calves start to hurt incredibly. It starts after about 2 minutes and by 10 minutes I have to stop because its too bad (I am running slow too, only about a half mile in the 10 minutes.)

I used to be in the Army and we ran everyday. I was never a strong runner but it was always I would run out of breath or get abdominal cramps, but I never had any pain in my legs.

I got out of the Army over 5 years ago and haven't done much exercise since. So I am guessing the pain is from the muscles no longer being used to it.

If that is the case, what is the best way to break them in? Should I just keep running and they will eventually get better or is there other exercises I can do?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Given your history I would suggest that you think of yourself as a non-runner who is starting running. Your body has lost a number of running-specific adaptations and you need to rebuild them.

There are good learn-to-run programmes on the web which take you from walking for 30 mins to alternating walking and running to actually running for 30 mins. For example this 8-week beginner program from Runner's World. Walking is the best way to start because it gets the body started on the adaptations without the impact and cardio-vascular stress of running.

If your calf muscles are feeling that painful then you are doing too much too soon. Back off and take it slowly to allow your body to adjust.

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Have modified the edit from @Dave. I don't like the Cool Running Couch to 5k programme as I feel it's too aggressive with running too early. That link is Couch to 5k. Possibly Dave might like to add an answer with it. – Sarge Sep 7 '11 at 4:34
Along with the 8-week program Sarge mentioned, if you have a smartphone, you can use the couch to 5k app. I used to have calf cramps when I started out running and this app helped me get into running gradually. – MR04 Aug 12 at 18:12

When you start running after almost no physical exercise for years, there is no telling what part of your body will start hurting. Just one thing is for sure: Something will hurt! In your case, the calves.

I don't think that there is anything wrong, just remember the speed and time your calves start hurting and then in the future think back and look at what you have achieved with your runs! ;)

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As @Sarge says, it's best to ease into running when you first start out; but it seems like you are doing that already. I'd say the most important thing to do is stretch out really well and cross train. Many runners neglect leg strengthening exercises, thinking that running alone will do it. Running certainly will make your legs stronger, but it's really beneficial to do things like squats, lunges, etc. Check out these calf exercises, and these leg exercises.

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Check your form, or have it checked by a runner. You are not a runner. Before you become a runner you need to make sure your form is good, you aren't too far overweight, and you aren't trying to do too much...too quickly. Landing on your heals can destroy calves. An overweight person can actually get small fractures in their bones from running. I'm not overweight, but started running just this year. Started with 1 mile and now am up to 4+ miles 2 months later. My calves started hurting "after" I ran when turned a certain way a 'stabbing' pain, so I watched a few videos, consulted a few runners, and have adopting a running form that has me landing mid/fore foot instead of on my heel - suddenly calves, knees, hips are all feeling fine and I only wear out of energy, but no pain.

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