I’ve had issues with one of my calves pulling for YEARS. Seems like every year I stop for a month or two from December to February, and when I take it up again I’ll get maybe a mile in and BAM! I’m sidelined for a bit.
Second time it happened I was actually training to run the Ogden Marathon - but I kept pulling it and it never got better so I couldn’t run. I did go to their expo to pick up my $80 t-shirt and talked to a sports med doc while I was there - and this is what he told me.
First - for me, it was my soleus that I kept pulling - the smaller muscle underneath the big calf muscle (gastrocnemius). Depending on which it is for you will determine which exercises and stretches to do.
His biggest recommendation was to strengthen and lengthen the muscle by doing heel drops on stairs. Basically, you start up on your toes with your heel far enough back to hang over the drop and slowly lower your heel until it is below your toes. Then use your good leg to lift you to the right height and reset the injured leg and slowly lower it again.
Do sets of 12 - you’ll want to start with one set for the first couple of weeks while you’re healing (it helps to stretch while healing to get the muscle fibers to line up - but you are only doing the latent exercise of dropping your heal - don’t push up and put that strain on it) and then eventually build up to doing 3 sets of 12 with a break between each.
Once you’re to the point that you aren’t feeling pain and haven’t for a while - then you can further strengthen your calf by pushing yourself back up with the leg you are working on instead of the opposite one. So you’re going up and down.
If it’s your soleus that was injured, then do this with a bend in your knee. If it’s your gastro, then do it with your leg straight. I’ve injured my calf enough times that I do both to work on both muscles.
I actually ended up having an ultrasound on my calf at one point. The doc described calf muscles as being like spaghetti in the bag - the fibers are supposed to be all lined up the same direction. But I’d pulled mine enough that the scar tissue and repair made it more like a bowl of mixed up noodles. So he suggested also doing some scraping with a physical therapist. I did that for a bit - then bought my own tool to do it myself after a while. That definitely helped a ton as well.
Again - this is just for a muscle pull. Good luck with that! Nothing worse than wanting to be able to run and not being able to.