So I am injured, after a tempo run on Friday my right calf muscle seized up. I tried to massage and roll it, I tried ice and heat but on my long run on Saturday I felt a sharp pain and stopped...immediately. I have a great chiropractor who does soft tissue work and he told me pain is the bodies early warning system that something it wrong. A dull pain is OK, you can keep running but seek treatment soon or rest if it's minor. A short sharp pain means stop, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. I stopped, massaged the muscle, tried to start again and realized that would not be a good idea. I called my chiropractor and got an appointment right away. The muscle had seized up and releasing it was a very painful procedure and I have a high pain threshold. No running for a week to give the muscle time to heal was his recommendation, I can swim and spin if it does not hurt but listen to what my body is saying.
As an athlete we are use to a certain level of pain, muscles get sore due to overuse or pushing too far and we are terrible at listening to what our bodies are telling us. We take pride in our pain, our blisters, our muscle strains, it's our badge of honour. Most of my running friends run with some sort of pain, heck I ran for almost a year with a pain in my right foot due to a collapsed arch. Pain is a sign that we are working hard and improving. The trick is learning what we can run through and when we need to stop. Stopping is hard but I would rather stop for a week then several months.
Some tips I have learned along the way to help avoid muscle cramps or seized muscles. Drink water, lots of water through the day. Drink electrolytes during your workout to replace salt when you sweat. Stretch after every workout, my old running coach was a big advocate of stretching, lots of it. She said you should stretch for 15 mins at least for every 60 mins of running. Honour your rest days, your muscles need time to recover, they need a day off from time to time. I like to have 2 rest days a week so I double up on workouts some days to do this. Most importantly, listen to your body, figure out how it feels on a good day so you can identify a bad day and when you need to stop.
I will spend the week cross training and letting my muscle recover, I ask a lot from it so it's the least I can do.