Beware the silent Mogwai : He’s the real troublemaker

Her: “Wow, your calf muscles are well developed.”
Me: “Thanks for noticing.”
Her: “It wasn’t a compliment.”
Me: “Oh… Yes, of course, sorry.”

It has been some time since I saw my chiropractor, and I had forgotten that she doesn’t remark on areas of my body unless there is a problem. Luckily for me I was face-down on the treatment table so she didn’t have to see my embarrassed look.

In my last post I mentioned that I had a few little Mogwais causing issues which I needed to sort out to prevent them becoming nasty little gremlins, the notable one being calf and associated shin pain.

What happens when I eat after midnight...

Well, it turns out that these little Mogwais were only the noisy ones. There were a couple of quiet ones hiding in the shadows waiting to cause havoc…a weak butt and tight hip flexors.

Unfortunately, my overdeveloped calf muscles are not the result of genetic luck, they are a symptom of requiring too much propulsion from my calves. Turns out my glutes and hamstrings are the culprits, by not providing the ‘missing’ propulsion. It’s not all their fault though. The real villain is my hip-flexors – they are very tight, which prevents my glutes/hamstrings from ‘pulling’ my leg back, meaning that I ‘drive’ my leg back through my quads and use my calf muscles to generate power at the end of my stride.

Further, the tight hip flexors ’tilt’ my pelvis forward, which has caused the muscles in my lower back to become stretched. I learned that it is these lower back muscles that assist in preventing lower back pain (which I get when standing for even a short period of time) and, crucially, weakness in these muscles can prevent the gluteus medius muscles from firing. Kind of a double whammy really.

The prescription?

  • Hip flexor stretches to open my hips
  • Lower back exercises to strengthen and shorten the muscles
  • Strength exercises focussing on my glutes and hamstrings

I’ve set myself a ’30 day challenge’ to do my stretches and exercises every day for the next 30 days, which will take me through to 17th December, which is also the date of the first run of my next marathon build-up.

I have to admit that is cutting it fine to be focussing on fixing a muscular imbalance issue at the same time as building up to a marathon training phase, but for the time being I will just have to keep the running reduced while I build up the volume of these exercises – I don’t want to overload my glutes and hamstrings and risk injury.

It’s not all bad news though. I was also complaining of some SI joint pain. I was relieved to hear from my chiropractor that my SI joint is moving freely, the pain was being referred from my lower black and gluteus medius muscle, so the treatment of my hip flexor and glutes/hamstring should resolve this issue.

Back in your box little buddy...

Back in your box little buddy…

Fingers crossed dealing with my hip flexor and glutes will resolve my calf issue and other little Mogwais, and if I’m lucky, make me a better runner.

Is anyone else battling a couple of little Mogwais at the moment?

Happy running everyone!


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Hi, I’m Bernie and I’m a just guy who writes about the things which get me going and get me running, even though my running is never going to result in me standing on a podium!

Posted on November 18, 2013, in Blog, Injury Recovery and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Good luck getting your ass in shape! 🙂

  2. Bernie I have a similar problems, tight back and hamstring throwing my pelvis forward. Is your 30 day programme tailored to your problem or shall I have a go? I get bad pain in my hips which is suspected tightened/shortened muscle.
    If I don’t fix this hip issue may have to rethink my running and I’m up to 25 miles per week after only starting 6 months ago. Any advice?


    • Hi June, thanks for your question and I’m sorry to hear you’re having issues.
      My exercises are based around the premise of lengthening my hip flexor and psoas muscles as well as strengthening my glutes, with the aim of reducing the amount of propulsion needed from my calf muscles.
      I don’t think they are going to necessarily be bad for you, but they won’t address your hip pain and tight back/hamstring issues.
      Yoga (Ashtanga, not Bikram) might be a good place to look, with many of the exercises being good for lengthening the back of the legs, strengthening the back and opening the hips.
      If you haven’t already done so, I recommend that you visit your physiotherapist (or chiropractor) to get their professional opinion about the cause, recovery and preventative exercises.
      Also, don’t let your spirits drop. It’s a (unfortunate) fact that all runners get injured at some point, many within the first year of running. The vast majority bounce back to continue their running fitter and stronger than before.
      All the best and let us know how you go with your recovery!

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