Tuesday, May 17, 2016

May 2016 - Keeping the Achilles Working

So back in mid April my Achilles was a little tight during some interval sessions. I did some vague rolling with the foam roller when I got back but I didn't really go to great lengths to address things.

I wasn't smart enough to really pay attention though to the warning signs that had been creeping up. Really by the time your Achilles hurts during a running session, you have likely already not been paying attention for quite some time.

Looking back now I should have seen a few things. My lower calves were always itchy, but more from a tight deep muscular type of thing and not a surface thing. Itchy is really just a way for nerves to say, hey somethings not right.  And super tight muscles help to block up nerves. Also my right side calf wasn't firing properly, so I did what I would have done in the past and added some calf raises to my daily regime.  When I did actually use my foam roller, it was really painful at the ankle, and really painful isn't a good sign.

So by the time my Achilles actually hurt during a run, I was quite far into thing. Now luckily not that far, as a little rest and it would be fine again. The problem being that it would come back mid run.

So I went to see my guy, Alan at Seaside Chiropractic. A good assessment and he could quickly tell that the muscles in my legs were just way past needing a good foam rolling. So the tendon wasn't able to slide properly and this causes friction and thus pain. Unfortunately that friction does a little damage and the subsequent healing the body goes through doesn't always put things back right, essentially forming a type of scar tissue (yeah, its more complicated than that but still).

Long story midsized, my main problem has been a lack of proper firing of my soleus. That's the other muscle in the calf. It lives kind of behind and a little lower than the big meaty gastroc. And sadly it is often an over looked and weak muscle that is really useful when it comes to running fast. The faster we run the more we start to hit mid and forefoot and it is the soleus muscle that is really responsible for the eccentric loading of the foot. And that is why doing calf raises is exactly not the exercise you need to fix the issue of weak soleus, they are concentric and will work the gastroc.


So eccentric calf drops are the way to go. Essentially you use both feet to rise up, take away the good foot and slowly lower the bad side until you go to a low stretch. Then repeat. Ideally you should be able to work your way up to 3x15 at which point you can start to add weight and do it. This will get the soleus working right.


This needs to be coupled with massage, possibly ART and at the very least foam rollers or massage sticks. The muscles around the affected area need to get loosened up.

Running needs to be limited to short distances/ time, with the main way to tell if it is too much being, does your tendon hurt now and does it hurt in the morning? If so, then cut back. But as long as there is no pain do light / limited running. For me that is 3-6 km give or take.

Ultimately a tendon takes much longer than a muscle to completely get back to normal. I highly suggest you see someone who can assess and track your progress, but everything I have read suggests up to 12 weeks to get back to normal.

Most of the other things you may see suggested usually are great at dealing with the acute symptoms. Ice, heat, drugs, stretching and if the symptoms are bad enough are warranted.

I have come across a few other interesting exercises that I have start to incorporate as well but the eccentric calf drop is a tried and true rehab exercise that and I can see why. Even if you aren't currently having Achilles issues, this is the sort of exercise that doing twice a week is something that should help stave off future injuries. If you do a quick youtube search you will likely find any number of video examples of how to correctly do this exercise.

So up next is the Bluenose 10km. It was going to be an A race for me, now it will hopefully be a fun race. My Achilles isn't in any danger of being damaged by running the race or else I would drop out, though I do expect it will be sore afterwards.
Post a Comment