Written two weeks ago, but the post is still pertinent. Update at the end…
It’s been an interesting start to the year, and exercise has often taken a back seat to other priorities. I’m glad I was able to focus on family, and humbled to have support at work and in my myriad commitments to attend to what mattered most.
With the home fires burning strong, though, I wanted to get back into shape. While I have no runs or races scheduled yet, my sideways glances in the mirror were becoming more and more dreaded, as were the trips to the scale.
Time to Run
I had been adding running miles the last few weeks. Progress has been slow, which is okay, and I thought it was slow enough.
By Feb. 23, I had added enough time to take on my local road loop, lovingly dubbed the Beacon Hill Burn. I kept at it, ran throughout an early March vacation, and dropped my time on the same loop by 2:30 in two weeks; great.
And then the heel twinge.
Looking back over my RunKeeper activity, I failed to note when the pain began. The twinge didn’t usually occur while I ran, but appeared after the run as a dull ache in my left heel. Never too bad, the pain subsided soon after each run, and I usually forgot about it.
Eventually, I felt tightness in the morning when I first put my feet on the floor. Again, it wasn’t bad, and disappeared quickly. No big deal, until last Friday.
Pushing to extend myself to hit a 30 mile goal by the end of the month, I added distance to a treadmill run. When I stepped off the treadmill, I couldn’t walk without limping due to the heel pain. I stretched at the gym, but later in the morning a burning pain intensified. I limped into work; never a good way to begin the day.
By the end of the day, miraculously, the pain disappeared. Fantastic, I thought. I’m good to go.
Not wanting to push my luck, though, I tried a trail run on Sunday. A recent Running World article advocated running on trails to help with form and to reduce the pounding joints endure on a treadmill or from road running.
For the first two miles, that held true. While muddy and uneven in spots, the trail seemed to be good medicine for the heel, until it wasn’t. One more step, and zing, the pain shot up my left heel. I stopped, swore, and walked the rest of the way.
Something’s not right. Who ya gonna call? The internet, of course.
A quick search turned up a diagnosis that appears to hit all the right notes; Achilles tendinitis:
The Achilles tendon connects the two major calf muscles to the back of the heel. Under too much stress, the tendon tightens and becomes irritated (tendinitis). It makes up 11 percent of all running injuries; eight percent of runnersworld.com poll respondents dealt with it this past year.
WHO’S AT RISK?
Runners who dramatically increase training (especially hills and speedwork) and have tight, weak calves are vulnerable.
I didn’t think I had weak calves, but I couldn’t argue with the fact that I’d been adding miles, likely more quickly than I should have. Self diagnosis is to take a few days off of running, ice the ankle, and try to do some calf strengthening exercises. I haven’t run since Sunday, and while I’m not limping, the calf is still tight.
Have you dealt with this kind of running setback? What’s your recommendation for how to add miles after a running hiatus?
A minute or two of morning heel stiffness continues, but there’s no pain. I haven’t run in two weeks, so that likely played a large part in the healing.
Next step is to get back on the treadmill tomorrow morning and see what happens. Wish me luck.