Achilles Tendon Injuries

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Know your body’s limits

Here’s an injury you get from trying too hard. Wow, talk about poetic justice, or instant karma.

Pushing too hard on the flats, on hills, during intervals or speed workouts. You’re trying too hard and your body can’t keep up with your image of how fast you could (or should) be. We teach speed with ease… where your legs no longer have the sole responsibility of getting you that speed you’re looking for.

That being said, you can also push too hard even if you’re not trying to go faster. Many beginner and midpack runners push too hard with their legs because of poor running technique.

What is the Achilles Tendon and what does it do?

The Achilles Tendon attaches your calf muscles to the back of your heel bone. When you contract your calves, you point your toes (plantar flexion). So, every time you “toe-off,” your calves fire (concentric loading of the calves), which pulls on your achilles tendon.

Also, by pointing your toes after you jump up, you land on the balls of your toes and your achilles tendon is what helps cushion the shock of your feet landing on hard ground. (Eccentric unloading of the calves)

What causes an achilles tendon pull?

If you’re going up a hill, or accelerating, you use the balls of your feet to push yourself forward, or upward, as the case may be. This puts a LOT of strain on your achilles tendons because, while your calves are contracting to point your toes and push you up the hill, your achilles tendons are stretching because the weight of your body is pushing down on your heels and working against the contraction of your calves. There has to be some give somewhere and it’s usually at the place where your achilles tendon inserts into your heel bone. When this attachment gets strained it can become inflamed (achilles tendonitis), which can be very painful and can bring your training program to a grinding halt. When runners experience achilles tendonitis, doctors usually prescribe anti-inflammatories to ease the pain. But, what’s more important is that you learn how you caused the injury in the first place, so you can avoid any recurrence.

If not treated it can turn into achilles tendinosis (which is non-inflammatory and should NOT be treated with anti-inflammatories), but instead, with physical therapy, stretching and eccentric loading of the calves.

If you continue to “run through the injury” without correcting the cause, you could end up with a heel spur (ouch!) or a rupture of the achilles tendon (long-term injury).

Get to the source of the problem

Think about it. When you run uphill you are using relatively small muscles  (your calves and feet) to push your entire body weight upward, when you could be using your core muscles, which are much stronger. It’s easy to see how your achilles tendons can get overworked pretty quickly because they’re not supposed to handle that huge amount of workload. They’re designed to point your toes!

If you wear high heels this problem can get exacerbated, because of the shortening of the achilles tendon that comes with elevated heels. When that shortened tendon is required to stretch on a hill, or during a quick acceleration, it lacks the resilience of a normal-length achilles, and it can get overstretched or pulled away from the heel bone.

ChiRunning takes a proactive approach to reducing lower leg injuries like achilles tendonitis (or tendinosis), by showing you how to run without relying on your lower legs for propulsion. When you learn to relax your lower legs and run without pushing off with your toes, most of the common lower leg injuries that plague other runners will no longer be an issue for you… EVER. And, your achilles tendons will always be happy campers.

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What others are saying...

I owe it to ChiRunning.  If I hadn’t read your book, I would have been finished after the 400 meter dash.  I am going to read it again and use the principles in my coaching.  I told everyone I talked to at the meet about ChiRunning and I’m sure there will be some converts after my “miraculous recovery.”

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