Achilles Tendinitis: You’re Achillen Me

Sometime after my 7-mile run around the Central Park Reservoir last Friday, my achilles of my right foot started to ache. It was nothing I’d never experienced before. In fact, it felt a lot like tendinitis, and although I was completely frustrated, I knew exactly what to do. Knowledge and experience are the only silver linings to a recurring running injury, I suppose.

The weather in New York over the last week has been incredible — perfect for morning runs — and so not running simply wasn’t an option.

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For me, managing the heel pain would be more about pace and distance. If I could just be smart about my morning excursions, I was confident I could manage the achilles pain without having to forgo every run.

So, that’s exactly what I did — that is, after my 6-mile run on Monday, which unquestionably exacerbated any early tendinitis symptoms. I hate to say that it was worth it, but I don’t at all regret it. Monday’s was a run for the books, and considering that my body is still in one piece, I’m having a hard time finding any reason to tell myself I shouldn’t have.

On Tuesday, I dedicated 45 minutes to stretching and stretch training, honing in on my core and avoiding any leg or foot work altogether. For a solid 5 minutes at the end of my workout, I massaged my calf. If I’m recalling correctly, during my last bout of achilles tendinitis I was informed by an alternative healthcare provider in Manhattan that, often,  common overuse injuries stem from a tightness or other issue elsewhere in the body. While that self-massage didn’t get rid of the pain altogether, it’s simply a good trick to keep up your sleeve. I’m convinced that it enabled me to continue running over the course of the days that followed.

The weather was beautiful for the remainder of the week, making it too difficult to resist. To be smart though, I kept all of my runs to 4 miles or less (I’d been logging 5-milers pretty much every weekday since August). Most were just around 3, and during each, I made a significant effort to stop, stretch and strength train. In Central Park, I lunged my way from the zoo back to the street, leading to seriously achy quads on Saturday.

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Had I taken a solid week off from running,  I’d probably be sitting here right now, at this very moment, telling you how awesome and healthy I feel. But it’s because I continued to run, even if only for a short distance, that, in reality, the tendinitis in my achilles isn’t completely gone.

On Saturday, Noah and I set out for a tentative 5-mile run to the Williamsburg Bridge and home — tentative because, if the pain was too obvious, I’d had stopped sooner and run home on my own.

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Achilles tendinitis is strange though. The pain isn’t bad enough to really ruin an outing, and yet the dull, achey feeling of something’s not right prevents you from truly enjoying the moment and feeling good about what you’re doing.

About a mile in, Noah asked how my heel was feeling. Well, I feel it, was the only answer I could muster. That’s kind of what tendinitis is like, in a nutshell. I’m not sure that I’d describe it as pain, but when you feel a part of your body that you otherwise probably wouldn’t notice was there, well, you might have a problem.

It didn’t help that I spent the rest of my Saturday wandering around Union Square for about 4 hours, going in and out of stores, picking up groceries (Sunday ravioli dinner!) and browsing the bookshelves at The Strand. So when I woke up hungover on Sunday (the result of watching the Michigan vs. Notre Dame game the night before while stress-drinking a bottle-plus of wine and nibbling on homemade pork shoulder)…

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(Homemade meals mean a brief break from my vegetarian ways. Worth it, when they’re cooked with love!)

…I decided to use my pounding head as an excuse to stay off my feet. Saturday’s incredible accomplishment was completely offset by my 5-hour Say Yes to the Dress marathon. Sorry, I’m not sorry.

As for this whole achilles tendinitis thing, only time will tell. Worst comes to worst, I concede and take a true week off. But for now, I’m looking forward to a solid week of almost-fall morning runs and a yoga class.

Have you ever experienced achilles tendinitis — or tendinitis of any other body part? Do you stop running altogether or experiment with what your body can handle?


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