Case Study: Achilles Overuse

“There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience and that is not learning from experience.”

– Archibald MacLeish

This is a little case study from my own experience with an achilles issue that I’ve been battling.

We’ll go over the cause, symptoms, how I overcame the issue, and what can be learned from the experience that I went through.

Calves, FTW

Cause

First lets start with what I did to cause my problem.

I had been living in the plains for over two years and my climbing during runs was very minimal.

My wife was offered a job in Rapid City South Dakota, right along the Black Hills mountain range. We visited for a weekend and I took advantage of the trip to get some climbing in. I climbed a lot. I descended a lot.

When I returned to the plains (before we actually moved) there was definitely some leg soreness the next week, especially noticeable in my hamstrings, however I kept on training as usual. Tight hamstrings mean tight calves, and the next week I started to notice one of my achilles tendons was pretty sore early on during my runs.

Symptoms

What I actually noticed was some soreness in the area between my heel and lower calf. Usually it went away during a run, but it would take about 5-15 minutes for it to stop nagging at me. I also noticed it a bit in the mornings.

This was nothing terribly painful and I would hesitate to say it was an injury. More accurately it would be something I tend to refer to as a niggle. But it had the potential to become an injury!

Overcoming the Issue

Now comes the important part, how I prevented the niggle from becoming an injury.

When you notice something is not right with your body you must make a modification to your training! The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. If you do not change the cause of the problem how is it expected to go away?

The first thing I did was reduce my training intensity. I took out anything other than easy running. When that did not quite work I also lowered my volume. I also warmed up more thoroughly prior to running since I noticed that the discomfort decreased after 5-10 minutes of running. A big thing to notice here is that I was able to resolve the pain without fulling stopping my training.

What can be learned

There is no such thing as a mistake if you learned from it.

Primarily, this was a reminder of mindfulness. I was unmindful when I did a weekend of too much vertical and I was unmindful when I did not give my legs enough recovery time afterwards. At least I practiced good mindfulness to let my achilles heal up!

Interestly, you could look at the cause of my problem in multiple ways.
Overuse (of the calf)
Under-recovery (of the legs post hilly weekend)
Lack of Mindfulness (both in that I did an excessively hilly weekend and trained through the soreness afterwards)

This case study can be applied to almost any potential injury or circumstance. It’s been years since I’ve actually had an injury (I can’t even recall it) however I’ve had numerous instances where a little niggle showed up. Each time I was able to lower my volume, move to easier trails, reduce intensity, or get off the treadmill and each time I prevented the niggle from becoming a real injury that would prevent me from running.

Learn from my mistakes, be mindful!

Also be sure to check out my other training advice & injury articles!