Ups and Downs in Lockdown

I didn’t feel it go, but at some point in a 50 yard stretch of descent from Edale Rocks my left calf began to hurt quite badly. It felt like I had cramp, but I knew almost immediately it was actually a pulled muscle or a calf strain as it would be described if I was a professional footballer. I’ve never pulled a muscle in all my time walking and as painful as it was (about a 5 or 6 out of 10) it was the gut wrenching disappointment that was the overwhelming feeling. This was going to put a serious kink in my waking plans for the rest of the summer!

Looking back to Edale Rocks as I descend towards the Jacob’s Ladder path

Since lockdown began in mid-March I’ve been working from home and this has meant I’ve been able to fit in a local walk most days. These began as short 3 or 4 mile walks along a couple of routes that I knew would be fairly quiet, and going out early in the morning to try and avoid the fuck-wits who refused to physically distance themselves from anyone else walking along the path.

I found walking quite stressful at this time, there were just so many more people out and about than I’d ever normally come across walking the local paths. One or two would mimic my actions and move across to the opposite side of the path as you approached, but so many just didn’t care. I called these people out to begin with, but that started to feel quite confrontational and after a couple of heated arguments I decided it was better to just do what I could and let others do what they wanted. I wasn’t enjoying the walks though, it was just exercise.

In early May I began to extend my walks, primarily to build up stamina, but also to take advantage of lesser used paths I could access from the house, to try and avoid people. By mid-May I was doing 7 or 8 mile local walks, 3 or 4 times a week. When lockdown eased and we were allowed to drive to a walk, I did a couple of hill walks in the Peak District, these extended my distances and also improved my hill fitness.

All told, by 11th July, and my walk past Edale Rocks, I’d done about 250 miles of walking and I was feeling great. My fractured metatarsal from last December still felt a bit sore at times, but nothing like as bad as it had been in the first three months of the year. I felt my hill-walking mojo returning! Then I pulled the bastard calf muscle!

I’d parked at Bowden Brodge in the Trespass car park and walked up onto the Kinder plateau via Cluther Rocks, a new ascent route for me and a really enjoyable walk. It grew cold and misty as I ascended and the final little scramble up Red Brook onto the edge was superb and atmospheric as the mist kept swirling in and out. I felt a bit winded by the climb, but that’s nothing unusual. I visited Kinder Low trig point and then pulled the muscle as I was descending past Edale Rocks. I knew it wasn’t something I was going to be able to ‘walk off’ like you sometimes can with a knock, but I had no choice other than to carry on. I walked out to Brown Knoll and then followed the path beside the wall, west towards the Pennine Bridleway and Mount Famine. I shunned the climb up South Head and Mount Famine, not wanting to exacerbate the injury and returned to the car slowly. The calf was painful but I could walk easily enough.

Ascending into the clouds, heading for Kinder via Cluther Rocks
A misty Kinder Low
Climbing Red Brook in the mist

Brown Knoll and the sun came out for a while

At home I applied some ice and elevated my left leg. I know a pulled muscle will take between 4 to 6 weeks to recover (you can learn quite a lot like that by watching sports and the healing time for various injuries) and I was due to be walking the Swale Way in two weeks! I hoped against hope that it wasn’t really a pulled muscle and it would heal up if I gave it some rest. I limped around the house for the next couple of days, and repeated ice treatment and Ibuprofen seemed to help a lot.

It’s now 10 days later and although I can walk without limping and there’s no pain from the calf, there will be little reminders sometimes that it hasn’t healed completely. Coming down stairs first thing in the morning is always interesting and if I change direction on my left leg I can sometimes feel a little pull in the muscle. I’m absolutely gutted. I honestly thought I’d cracked it this year and I was going to be able to enjoy some pain free walking. The last couple of years have been one injury after another, it it’s not my knees it was plantar fasciitis and when that finally subsided I fractured the metatarsal. This calf strain couldn’t have come at a worse time.

On Saturday I travel to Boroughbridge to walk 16 miles (albeit along the flat beside the river) to Thirsk along the Swale Way. The following 6 days will see another 70-80 miles walking, increasingly hilly and through the Yorkshire Dales, finally over Nine Standards Rigg to Kirkby Stephen. I don’t want to cancel it – in fact I’m not going to cancel it. I’m going to try and complete it despite the injury.

What with everything else that’s going on this is just a small niggle. I’ve been working throughout the lockdown, all the family are safe and well and we found out in March that our eldest daughter is expecting another baby, so we’ll be grandparents again in September. Things could be so much worse (and could still get that way potentially) so pulling a muscle is just an inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, but it just seems like a major blow right now.

4 thoughts on “Ups and Downs in Lockdown”

  1. A tough blow, but not decisive, I hope Stuart. I recently started to do warm-ups before a day’s walk. Seems a bit needless, but certainly can’t hurt. I am getting more cautious as I grow older. 🙂 Best of luck! Tim

  2. Michael Reardon

    I’ve also been having calf issues when my weakness was always achillies centered. Two things … For running bought new, trainers that reviewed said best to prevent calf strain . And made sure I warmed up before putting any strain on calf either when walking or running. Taken together both have done the trick. Can still feel my left calf would like to play up given half a chance but when I feel that I ease off for a while. Someone suggested I’d been going from longer sedentary periods to exercise more than pre lockdown and calf muscles needed longer to warm up.

    1. Thanks Michael – in all my years walking, I’ve never warmed up before a walk, I always felt the initial walk-in was warm up enough, but maybe I need to re-think that!

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