Since about 2011, I have had foot and lower leg issues when I would go for a run.  Everything would feel fine when I would start, but within ten minutes I would feel my calves tighten up.  This tightness would travel up to my knees and then eventually into my back and shoulders, ultimately preventing me from running much farther than a mile or two.

Over the past two years, I have slowly progressed myself to be able to tolerate running for longer periods of time.  One thing that has helped tremendously is making sure my feet stayed tuned up with Muscle Activation Techniques™.  But even still, I had a maximum distance of about three miles before I would get the tightness and achiness again.  Until last week.


Last week, I had my trunk rotation worked on with the MATRx™ process.  The next day I went out for a 3.5-mile run through Schaumburg and Hoffman Estates.  Not only did my feet, calves, knees, back, and shoulders feel great the entire run, I decreased my average per-mile time by over one minute.  And the most astounding thing was that the run felt completely effortless.  I felt like I could have easily gone farther when I got home, and I did not feel a single bit of tightness throughout my body.

While I was running, I could actually feel my trunk having the ability to rotate and move.  I noticed the same sensation while I was walking around my home, too.  What I realized is that, for years, my feet may have been trying to increase their stability when I would run in order to make up for the lack of stability in my trunk.  The tightness I would feel in my lower legs and calves was a sign that those muscles were having to do too much work.  And, similar to the story of my client only “feeling her hamstrings” when she would work out, it was the increased tightness in these areas that was most noticeable and uncomfortable, not the lack of proper function in my trunk.

Why would this be?  Every time you take a step and your foot hits the ground, it has to flatten or pronate in order to help absorb the shock of your body hitting the ground.  This pronation phase of gait includes motion throughout your entire body.  Your ankle will dorsiflex.  Your lower leg and your hip will turn in.  Your hip and knee will also flex.  Your trunk will have to turn.  Your spine will flex.  If any one of these motions cannot be performed well, you will have to pick up more motion through another area of your body.

With me, because my trunk could not turn well, I may have had to pick up more motion through my hip, knee, ankle, and foot.  For me, specifically, my calves may have been tight because they were trying so hard to control the extra motion at my knee, ankle, and foot that was being created due to the lack of motion in my trunk.  My calves were my check engine light that something was going on.  But it was my trunk muscles that needed some extra tutoring.

If you notice that your muscles tighten up with physical activity, that may be a sign that they are compensating for other muscles not working as well as they should.  While this isn’t a bad thing in the short-term, it is a clear indicator that your body may be in need of a tune-up from your local Muscle Activation Techniques™ specialist before it becomes a chronic issue.

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Charlie Cates

Charlie Cates is the leading consultant to high-level professional, college, & high school basketball players in the Chicagoland area for injury prevention, recovery, & muscle performance. As a certified Muscle Activation Techniques® MATRx practitioner & former college basketball player, he uses his personal experience & understanding of the game & player demands to create customized exercise options for his clients to recover faster & perform their best. He is certified in the highest levels of MAT®, including MATRx, MATRx Stim, and MAT® Athlete. Follow him on Instagram @CharlieCates!