Do your calf muscles get tight and sore after a few days on the slopes? You're not alone. Although skiing and boarding have very different physical demands on the body, the calf complex can notoriously be a problematic area in both sports.
This blog is going to focus on aches and pains from overuse and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), rather than a tear in a muscle from direct injury (contact Bonne Santé if you want more information about calf muscle tears and acute injuries).
You have two major muscles in your calf complex. The more superficial of these is called the gastrocnemius and the deeper one is the soleus. Generally people are more aware of gastrocs muscle and how to stretch it, however the soleus is particularly key in skiers and boarders because it is a stabiliser of the lower leg when the knee is bent (which is how you spend most of the day on the hill).
The role of both of these muscles is plantar flexion, in other words they point the foot towards the ground. Any pressure through the ball of your foot is generated by the calf complex. When we are skiing and boarding we are constantly using pressure through our forefoot to control our equipment, speed and direction. Therefore the calf complex is constantly being stretched and contracted, placing the muscles under significant tension.
There are many factors that increase the risk of calf strains and pains when you are skiing / boarding. These include but are not limited to: