Snakes and Ladders


Too many snakes

I was nearly there. After patiently doing the rehab, I had built up gently running 1 mile, then 2 miles, then 3 miles. Saturday I ran/walked 9 leisurely miles and didnt feel any worse.

Monday evening after work I set out to do 5 miles. The first 2 miles felt great, no pain at all. This was the best my achilles had felt and I was enjoying just jogging round feeling injury free. Then for no obvious reason the achilles started to feel a little sore. By mile 4 it was feeling stiff and by mile 5 it was very stiff and a big bit sore.

Major fail and major ensuing depression.  Decided to cancel the accommodation booked for the Moray marathon as there was now no way I would be fit for it.

On reflection I probably changed too many things at once on that Monday evening run. I wore my Brooks Pure Cadence which have a slightly lower heel drop than the big sturdy shoes I had been rehabbing in; I ran entirely on the pavement rather than the softer grass or trail and despite not intending to I was running much faster than I had been up to this stage in my rehab. I would probably have got away with any one of those things but to do all three was a bit careless. I was too impatient. I suppose it just reinforces the old adage about when you think you are ready, wait another day…..

So I am back at the bottom of the board again. Back to the physio and with instructions to use a weighted jacket while exercising to build up strength in my achilles.  After 4 days of being really sore and stiff and not being able to do anything at all, I am on the move again.  At the moment I am only rolling 1’s and 2’s but at least I have managed to move forward a couple of squares by doing some bouncing and some heel drops.  I am hoping that if I can be dilligent in doing the right things I will hit a ladder sometime soon which will shortcut me back up the board. Unfortunately there aren’t too many ladders in recovering from an achilles injury and an awful lot of snakes.

The only good thing is that there is a tried and tested formula for coming back from an achilles problem. Here is my  recipe:

General Principles – DO NOT move on to the next stage unless you have completed what you did yesterday again and have NO reaction.  If you have a reaction have a day’s rest or go back a stage. Shoes with a heel help. Minimalist shoes aggravate the injury in the early days of rehab.

Ice –  especially in the early days. I use disposable ice cube bags as a wrap and also a polystyrene cup of ice for massaging the achilles

Ibuprofen – these are bad things but at least initially the anti-inflammatory does help a little

Compression –  I find that compression helps. I wear compression socks and alternate with a compression bandage round my ankle.

Massage –  physio and self massage help. Gently rubbing a heat rub into the achilles helps reduce the inflammation and get the tendon moving in the sheath.  Foam roller and general stretching also helps.

Calf raises –  these are the first exercise I can manage. Repeat every 30 minutes or whenever I get the chance throughout the day. Start off with using both legs and work up to single leg as the achilles repairs/strengthens. Sets of 10 reps at a time

Heel drops –  these are the exercises which do the job of repairing and strengthening the achilles. Dropping of a step, starting off with two legs and working up to doing it one legged. Build up to sets of 3 x 15 with no pain before proceeding to running. I do it on the stair so I can hold on to the bannister.

Bouncing –  on a mini trampoline, run on the spot. Start with a couple of minutes 3 times a day and build up to 20 minutes or more. When the achilles is nearly ready pushing vigorously with each leg will feel fine..

Running – start by jogging really slowly and walking on short grass no more than 20 metres at a time. Build up to 20 minutes of this.

Progress to the football pitch. Jog the short side, walk the long side for 20-30 minutes.  Do this for 2 sessions with no reaction afterwards. Then move on to jog the long side, walk the short side. Again 2 sessions with no reaction afterwards.

Jog/walk – run 2 mins walk 1, then run 3 mins walk 1, 4/1, then 5/1. Build up time on feet from 30 mins to 1 hour.  Repeat each level at least once  before moving on if there is no reaction.

Run continuously – 2 miles, then 3, then 4/5. Only move on if no reaction.

Run on harder surfaces –  repeat 2, 4, 5 mile runs on pavement.

Finally, start introducing speed but only at 30-60 seconds / mile at a time. No jumping from 12 minute miles to 8 minute miles.

This whole process takes a long time. There is a minimum of 3 weeks in this programme and more likely 4-6 weeks depending on how disciplined I am.

Patience is most definitely the key.

Once running again, it is then time to work on the stability and strength exercises which will correct the biomechanical imbalances which tend to be at the root of achilles problems. I find that if I am going to the gym regularly my achilles is fine. I also suspect from experience that my achilles problems are caused by my computer. I am right handed and slouch when using my computer. This compresses my right hip and gives me tightness in my Glutes, Hip Flexor and SI joint on my right side. This in turn causes tightness and restricted movement when running which I suspect results in compensating movements in the opposite corner from my right hip which is of course my dodgy left achilles.

One thing is certain, an achilles niggle is the most frustrating of injuries.

Going Nowhere Fast

Thus spake the man who has just been doing intervals running on the spot on the trampette 🙂

For folks of a certain age, the trampette will be remembered as that little bouncy thing you jumped on in PE class before *vaulting elegantly/getting stuck halfway/ landing on your head ( *delete as appropriate) over the big wooden box horse.  As someone whose grace and poise is inversely proportional to his effort and enthusiasm, this usually resulted in me being catapulted violently over the box, occasionally the right way up, before landing with a thump on any part of my body except my feet. Sometimes I even landed on the mat.

My recollection is that the box seemed massive though like many things from your childhood, including Creme Eggs and Yorkie Bars, I suspect they may seem smaller nowadays. I assume the big box horse has disappeared from schools, cursed by health and safety or PE teachers too unfit to demonstrate how to do it. Either that or they will have realised that the kids might have watched a black and white war film and realised that they could use the Box to escape.

My only other recollection of the trampette was that watching the senior girls with their wobbly bits doing gymnastics was a popular and educational activity engaged in by junior school boys and male PE staff alike.

I digress.

My achilles is slowly getting better.

After being told by the physio that my chances of making my first marathon of the autumn were slim and none, this encouraged me to redouble my rehab efforts!

The trampette is a great rehab for the achilles and calves. You get strengthening without the impact. If you have a high boredom threshhold you can even do an extended session on it to get  race fit. I once did a 2 hour run on the trampette in a previous injury.

So far I have done a weeks worth of bouncing building up to 20 minutes.  I have started gently reintroducing running back into my programme.

You can see from the table I have been building up gently. I have been running on short grass and ash path trying to avoid pavement and hills.

06/08/2013 Easy 3.5 mi 32:16 9:12
05/08/2013 Easy 2.8 mi 27:17 9:54
04/08/2013 Easy 1.8 mi 22:11 12:41

Yesterday I had no pain at all when running, but when I woke up this morning I had a bit of stiffness and soreness, so am being sensible and not running tonight.

Hopefully a bit more ice, stretching and ibuprofen will see me able to get out for another run tomorrow.

Recovering from an injury like this is a really good analogy for training generally. It is all about stress and recover. With the acuteness of an injury it accentuates the need to stress just enough to encourage healing without stressing so much that the injury gets worse or the recovery time is too great.

Ever the optimist I have written a program which take me from 1.8 miles  to 26.2 in the space of 3 weeks. Realistically I probably wont be fit for what I am christening the Dean Martin marathon (“that’s-a-Moray” sic.) , but I can at least give it a go.

Having started this post by running fast and going nowhere, I shall close it by sharing that in an effort to kick start my metabolism so that it eats some of the lard round my middle which seems to be going nowhere, I am in the midst of a 24 hour fast.

This water is mighty tasty…

Oh Flax! Ouch. Grumble. Mutter.

Flax! Flax! Flax! or words to that effect
Flax! Flax! Flax! or words to that effect

That’s the thing about being a glass half empty sort of person – while running is not really an enjoyable experience,  NOT running is an even worse experience.

I am injured. Nothing serious, but bad enough that I am NOT running. My Achilles and its eponymous niggle has flared up again.

I have had this injury several times before and I know how to rehab it. Unfortunately this takes time, patience and NOT running.

It is bad enough that I finished the West Highland Way Race with my glass filled nearly up to the top and a real enthusiasm to get out and train for my Autumn marathons, which are now approaching at an alarming rate while I am NOT running.

What is even worse is that the reason I am NOT running is because I am STUPID. I finished WHW in fine fettle and recovered well. I started doing some speedwork and all was well. I picked up a wee bit of soreness running on the Clyde Walkway.  Instead of taking some rest, I followed this up with two consecutive days of hard runs, and after the second one I couldn’t run at all. This was Wednesday. Arran Half Marathon was Sunday, so stayed off the foot until the Sunday and managed to warm up, but was a bit achy. STUPID mode kicks in. It’s a race, I am here, what is the worst that could happen, after all my plan is to take it easy and just use it as a training run, especially in the heat.  Gun goes, off goes STUPID, a full minute a mile faster than plan. By 2 miles it was getting sore, but being STUPID I assured myself it was just a bit stiff and would ease out as it warmed up. By 4 miles it was so sore that I had to stop.  Police car stops while I am stretching against a telegraph pole and asked if I was ok or did I need help? STUPID says I’ll be fine and just stretch it out.  Police car drives off and STUPID determines that he is as well continuing because it is too far to walk back now.  Next, STUPID tries to make a bandage from his calf sleeve doubling it over until the ankle is supported enough to get going.  Eventually after much hobbling STUPID made it to the finish in 1 painful hour and 41 STUPID minutes.

Two weeks later and I am still NOT running because I am STUPID. And because I am NOT running it is making me frustrated, tetchy,  fed up, and even more grumpy than usual. Or so I am told!

I will admit to being just the teensiest less jolly than usual, while my stomach swells up to the size of a bloated gas-filled dead water buffalo and my legs become as stiff as the legs on the aforementioned maggot ridden corpse.

I am missing my daily dose of pain.  So now I am miserable because I can’t get my daily misery fix because I am STUPID and NOT RUNNING.

Grump. Grump. Wanders off into the distance muttering something about Flax….