Healing, Rehab and Running – The Achilles Tendon
(BEWARE: it’s longer than war & peace!)
Recovery takes times but it can take longer than you ideally like if you don’t follow the advice of those who are providing recommendations backed by years of research & experience.
Sinead O’Conner’s ‘nothing compares to you’ seems to be on repeat in my head of late …. “It’s been seven hours and fifteen days since you took your love away” however for me” It’s been 12hours and 222 days since I first started to experience Achilles tendinitis pain.” Funny how a simple verse of a song seems to take on a new meaning when I get in deep thought about what I have been experiencing for over the past 7 months.
Over this period, I have been asking the question of myself ‘Why’ – why me? why now? but like anyone who asks this question, there never seems to be an adequate answer well not one that gives adequate peace of mind anyway. I am not sure why towards the end of October 2018 my right Achilles decided it had reached its tipping point but what I do know is, I have and am doing all I can to excel the recovery.
Starting from the beginning
Just when you think you are making a comeback, increasing the load by a sensible 10% each week the Achilles tendon decides it’s not quite ready to cope with the load and starts to get all grumpy again, the ebbs and flow is what makes this injury just so mentally draining.
I definitely thought I was a strong athlete, one that can push through pain (both reasonable and unreasonable) and tough it out but for some reason this injury has brought me to my knee, almost literally at times. I have battled with the thoughts that I am weak but reminded myself being weak is not getting up each morning to spend 20mins doing exercises to improve my situation, not heading off to the gym 3-4 times a week to do weighted exercises and not visiting weekly a physio, sports doctor or podiatrist to assess my recovery and to manipulate, dry needle and give further exercises to help strengthen not only the tendon but the calf muscles too.
Two steps forward and five steps back is what it seems but it is only I who is making a mountain out of a molehill for in the scheme of things, my injury/recovery is pretty darn good considering. My weakness is my disappointment in not being able to carry out the exercise that makes me run happy, that makes me calm, content and move with flow.
Unblocking neurological pathways
My running pace has slowed down by about 30-40 seconds per kilometre and this is for my easy runs only and by 10 – 15 seconds for my runs at pace. I am still trying to figure out if the Achilles is still present or if it is the mental wiring of my mind that is creating a pain that I have become so use too; are my neurological pathways now the thing that needs the rehab not the tendon itself?
I have started running with buds in my ears listening to podcasts or a play list helping me focus my mind away from my right Achilles and when running on the trails, I concentrate on my breath or focus on my big toe hitting the ground with strength and commitment. Like a mind that meditates, I am channelling the focus to a fine point in order to help stop all the noise around me. Focus on the injury and it soon manifest into something that maybe not there at all….this doesn’t happen all the time, we still need to be mindful of how are bodies are reacting to the force of running BUT I am a believer in ‘changing the channel’ when it comes to rehab focusing more on the positives than the negatives.
This mindset absolutely did not work at the beginning when the Achilles was what I refer to as ‘acute’, a 9/10 but now days its sitting around a 1 or 2 out of 10 and this gives me hope that I am coming out of the other side, I am finally making progress.
Between my coach, Kellie Emmerson and I the word “progress” has been used a lot lately and for good reason. I am now running 3-4 times a week and that is what I whole heartedly call progress. My weekly deep-water running classes and spin classes have been reduced down to one session per week but what hasn’t changed is my daily exercise & strength routine to ensure this injury not does present itself again in the near future.
I don’t like to say I am not one of the lucky ones, I just happened to be one of the people whose Achilles has taken longer than 6 weeks to heal. The time that I have experienced and still experience to some degree has taught me more about the body and caring for it than I would have learnt otherwise. Some injuries can be a blessing; it’s a hard pill to swallow at the beginning but being present each day reminds me of just how complicated the body and mind are. We need to constantly treat them both with respect, for your body is a temple.
With a little help from my friends
My recovery continues to be carried out with the help of my friends, a group of people who are also my teachers and guides. The past few months I have found some instrumental resources that have excelled my Achilles tendinitis knowledge and physical mindfulness; I share these with you now:
Just a little advice
My #1 recommendation when it comes to experiencing any physical disfunction is to avoid searching for answers via Dr Google or even worse just hoping it will get better with time; general reading and information is helpful but you are an individual so you need to visit a professional such as a physiotherapist, podiatrist or sports doctor who will put together an individualised tailored program just for you.
Despite your injury being common one there is only one of you and you need to know exactly how a rehab can benefit you.
Other blogs that relate to this topic are: