So, my mighty plan for the next few weeks was to complete the couch to 5k programme, the NHS supported downloadable app that was going to get me from zero to super lean and fit in 9 weeks.
I was hoping that the most challenging aspect would be to download the app onto my phone, sort my running playlist and the rest was going to be easy. In fact, as I like to think that I am quite fit, I wasn’t even sure I could start on week 1. Perhaps I could just skip that easy part and just jump, literally, in to week 2. After all, I have a job that keeps me fit. I walk the highly energetic and bouncy dog daily. Of course I’m fit!
I’m not. I’m really not. This is a bit of a shock. Suffice to say, I crawled back home, red and sweaty, convincing myself it wasn’t too bad and actually felt quite pleased with myself, at least after I was able to return to being able to talk and breathe and was really quite looking forward to being able to build on my progress with my next run scheduled for a couple of days’ time.
So imagine my disappointment on getting up the next morning to find my heel had somehow become inflamed and sore overnight. Seems I had managed to pick up a very common runner’s injury, an Achilles tendon injury, already, after one outing.
The Achilles tendon is one of your strongest tendons. It begins at the back of the heel and continues up into the calf at the back of the lower leg. Without our Achilles we wouldn’t be able to walk. Actions include pushing off with the foot in both walking and running and heel raises ie. Rising up onto the ball of your foot. It is a very strong, large tendon, rope like at the back of the heel, becoming broader as it extends into the calf.
Common areas to feel this injury are where the Achilles attaches into the heel and sometimes a little further up at the back of the ankle, a little further up from the heel. It can also be felt into the lower calf. Pain can range from dull ache to something more severe and throbbing, depending on the severity of the injury. Swelling and heat can be present, especially if the bursa at the back of the heel is irritated.
The Achilles, like other tendons in the body doesn’t respond well to being strongly over-stretched. Poor stretching can injure this tendon as can over-use and tightness and imbalance of muscles in the lower leg. It can be a persistent injury, tenacious in its ability to come and go and just as you feel you’re fully healed it comes back with a vengeance. Generally, people need a lot more rest than they allow, particularly competitive types that are keep to get back to their sport as soon as possible. Runners and dancers hate the thought of rest but this injury is definitely not one for the ‘no pain, no gain’ ethos of recovery. Even after the pain has gone, there if often still some healing to be done. This is the unfortunate pattern with tendon injuries. Scar tissue and a build-up of scar tissue together with stretching too strongly, too soon, can exacerbate an already slow healing process.
So for me, I managed to pick up this injury from doing too much too soon, especially on up-hill, uneven ground. My case was mild and two weeks of self-treatment, including electro-acupuncture and massage has, for me, sorted it out. Electro-acupuncture can be really good for these types of injury. It helps with the pain and, together with firm massage, helps promote blood flow to the area, speeding up the healing process and restoring function and movement. Rest together with gentle movement have continued progress and, now I am pain free, I am continuing with regular heel raising exercises to promote long term strengthening. I must proceed with caution but all signs so far are good.
But of course, now the realisation is that I now need to start with ‘week 1’ again. Two runs in and all ok so far…onwards and upwards.