A reader of the blog, Wendy, motivated me to write this post and make the related video workout. Wendy contacted me and wanted to know what she could do for a "blown Achilles tendon" other than "bawling on the couch."
Wendy's situation is unfortunately pretty common among runners. When overworked, the Achilles will become inflamed which is usually tendonitis. If the inflammation isn't taken care of and the runner continues to work it, it can tear or rupture. Rest is usually the best thing when you're feeling soreness in the Achilles area, but if the pain is intense and/or continuous, you need to get an appointment with your sports doc and get a diagnosis and plan for how best to let it heal. - Achilles problems usually are a result of problems with a group of muscles further up the leg—the calves(the gastrocnemius and the soleus). These two muscles run down the back of the lower leg and the Achilles tendon is what connects them to the heel bone. The calf muscles help propel you forward, but in runners the calves often tighten up causing the Achilles tendon to work a lot harder than it's supposed to. This extra work is what causes the tendonitis or in most severe cases, a tear or rupture.
Calf strengthening exercises and calf stretches are the best way to avoid Achilles tendon injuries. The following workout shows 5 different exercises that target your calves as well as two stretches. Once or twice a week pick 2 or 3 of the exercises and do 12-15 reps and 2-3 sets of each and before you know it you'll have calves that are working hard making you a stronger more efficient runner.
I heard back from Wendy the next day and she had good news. A trip to the physical therapist revealed it was some localized swelling and pain, but not a tear. A cortisone patch and some stretching exercises was prescribed. She'll be back running as soon as she can walk up and down the stairs with no pain. Yeah!