Many runners and athletes have a lot in common, talking about the latest gear, new exercises, the weather, and of course, injuries. One in particular is Achilles tendinitis. In high school I was a sprinter and a long jumper, practicing 6 days a week for basically 4 years straight. Of course, I ended up in a boot up to my knee and missing the end of my senior season from Achilles Tendinitis, which Physio Works says “refers to tiny tears in the tissue in and around the tendon caused by overuse.”
The Achilles is a thick tendon that attaches your Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscle to your heel; it is one of the thickest tendons in our body. According to Physio Works “ Achilles Tendinitis is a term used that commonly refers to an inflammation of the Achilles tendon or its covering. It is in overuse injury that is common especially to joggers and jumpers, due to the repetitive action and so may occur in other activities that require the same repetitive action.” Runners are especially prone to injury there due to the repetitive foot strike of our sport. If we do not have hip flexibility this makes our foot strike shorter and in turn puts more strain on the back of our lower leg. Another common cause of Achilles tendinitis is over pronation, this occurs when your foot strikes the ground and rolls inward. Pronation is our bodies natural response to gravity and ground reaction force, this is how we naturally move, but over-pronating puts extra stress on our calf muscles and pulls on the Achilles.
One of the best ways to prevent Achilles tendinitis is to keep your hips and calves loose.
- For the hip: place one foot on a stair or a secure chair, stand nice and tall while holding on to a wall or railing and with your rear foot and front foot both pointing straight ahead, gently shift your weight to the front leg until you feel a stretch in front of your hip, hold for 30-60 seconds, gently release the stretch and duplicate on your other leg. (1st picture below)
- As for your Gastrocnemius muscle: borrow a tennis ball from your dog or child and place it under your lower leg, while sitting with legs straight on the ground, find a tender spot and hold for 30-120 seconds, once complete slowly come off of that spot and repeat until you have found all of the tight spots. For an example of this please checkout our IBJI HPI Wellness video from January. After that you can do a traditional calf stretch. (Second picture below)
These two tips not only help with prevention but are also good for recovering from an injury. Following these easy steps will keep you outside enjoying these beautiful days on a nice long run. For me, these two key stretches and releases allowed me to still participate in a sport that I love and also to complete my first half marathon.
As the great George Sheehan said “ Running is play; racing is sport. Play is the preparation; sport is the performance. My training is play; my race is sport in its purest expression (Sheehan 128).” Keep yourself healthy so that you can keep playing.
- Angie Gonzalez, LMT
Sheehan, George. The Essential Sheehan: A lifetime of Running Wisdom from the legendary Dr. George Sheehan. Rodale, 2013. Book