By: Genevieve Ward Genevieve is a registered massage therapist at Body Poets who mixes other activities with running to keep her IT band happy.
If you run, cycle, or walk for exercise, you know about the iliotibial band, or ITB, on the outside of the thigh, and during exercise you might have suffered from pain at the knee that is known as Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome or ITBS.
A strong lower leg is a key component in a strong foundation. In fact, if one of your calf muscles – the soleus (pictured at right) – were not in constant contraction, you would fall forward! Not only that, strong calf muscles protect your ankle joint, improve your running and jumping ability, and help blood flow return upward to your heart.
As with most muscles, there are two parts to ensuring strong, healthy calf muscles: strengthening and stretching. This is especially true for the gastrocnemius (the large outer calf muscle – cut away in the diagram at right), which is prone to spasms. Finding the balance between adequate amounts of strengthening and stretching can lower the chance of spasms occurring.