Making myself better today… even through injury

I honestly think I needed this break.

Don’t get me wrong. I was loving what I was doing – reaching higher weekly mileage totals than I ever had before, working harder than I thought possible, etc. My greatest joy now is beating my body into oblivion. On the other hand, though, I was struggling a bit mentally (being able to wrap my head around attacking such long/hard workouts) and I’m realizing now that I wasn’t giving myself enough physical rest either. The day after the pain started I came down with the flu. At the time, I thought it was God’s way of making sure I took an extra rest day. [Still probably was] But, after sleeping a ton Friday to shake the bug and throughout the weekend, I realized how sleep deprived I must have been. So – lesson for next time – perhaps look into using my vacation days strategically so I can better recover during these big weeks. Also, make sure that I’m allowing some down time after each of the runs. All too often I do a quick noon-time or evening run and then rush back to work or on to something at home without stretching or relaxing. Not acceptable.

But, as much as I “needed” a little break, God could have made it a little shorter of a break.

To recap what I’ve done/learned in the last week (and a timeline just for my sake):

Thursday evening: sharp pain during evening run at 4 miles, started and stopped next ½ mile. Stabbing pain intermittent. Decided to stop at 4.5 miles, walked home.
Friday: flu, unable to run even if I wanted to
Saturday: ran 2 miles, walked rest of way home after feeling the “stabbing” sensation start to creep into the Achilles. NOO! Walked home.
Sunday: off, trying to decide a game plan. Reading Jaymee’s blog and what she went through and learned has been SUPER helpful. Nice to know others have been through it & come out of it just as strong. Decided to try cross-training tomorrow to see if it would bother the area.
Monday AM: Decided to turn myself into a cross-training machine. 38 minute pool “run” at the YMCA. YUCK. Every time I made a turn in the pool (which took about 1:15, in case you’re wondering), I told myself to try to make the next minute count. There are only so many minutes in a day, you have to use each of them to make yourself better. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get my heart rate up for the life of me. I wondered if I was doing it wrong. I tried a fast tempo, a slow tempo, and everything else I could think of. At 38 minutes, I willed myself to try another lap or two. (The workout plan called for 6 miles in the AM, 6 in the PM, so I was trying to do something equivalent) But I just couldn’t. Noted that pool running just isn’t my thing (I’ve tried it a few other times in my life, with the same results).
Getting up out of the pool, Dr. Bahl was entering. YEAH! Medical sage to the rescue! He gave me a little advice & told me to see a PT he works with. He suggested some sort of steroid patch.
Dried off, then did 40 minutes on the elliptical. GREAT workout! Time went by relatively quickly & I got my heart rate to around 170, which is good. (generally max is 210, hard workouts 190, easy workouts 155-160, easy-moderate 170. No achilles pain. Sweated a ton as well – so thought to myself that I should incorporate a session of indoor training at least once a week between now & the trials just to keep my body used to the heat/humidity.

Monday PM: 60 minutes on the bike, nice and easy.

Tuesday AM: 60 minutes elliptical, medium effort.
Saw physical therapist. Said there’s still some visible swelling around the tendon, so no running until Monday :(. Said we’re going to wait until we can do a 5-7 mile run with confidence (rather than heading out and just doing 2, re-inflaming the area, etc.). Waiting until Monday with an aggressive anti-inflamatory plan should allow the area to heal.
Things he noted that I need to work on:
1. Inside calf weakness. Need to do at least a little calf work (I do very little now), focusing on both the inside and outside.
2. I’m extremely inflexible. REALLY need to work on this. Again, I think it’s just dedicating 10-15 minutes after a run to properly stretching & winding down. Another thought is to dedicate 10-15 minutes at the end of my strength sessions to flexibility.

3. 10 degree difference in my ability to flex my foot forward on the injured side. Result of the injury? Or previous imbalance? I’ll never know, but something to be aware of & work towards getting each side equal.
He did some deep tissue massage to get out knots in my low calf muscle that might be tugging at the achilles (where he commented that most people cringe with pain – yeah, it was uncomfortable, but I definitely wouldn’t call it a “cringe” type of pain. But, perhaps my threshold for pain is different than most). He showed me some strengthening exercises and stretches and then put a steroid patch on the area (called Iontophoresis). Basically it moves the cortisone from the patch under the skin to take away the inflammation. Doing a bit of reading online, it sounds like it’s a pretty effective way to relieve the inflammation in the area.

Which leads us to now! I’m planning to hop on the bike again tonight, hopefully for another hour or so. Should be a jolly good time.

General plan forward: no running until there’s no inflammation and no pain to get up on my toes (right now there still is). Cross train my butt off. Try to continue on my weekly “get to race weight” plan, even thought that’s a lot harder when you’re not running & it’s Thanksgiving week (can I please replace the 10,000 calorie meals I know will be at both families’ homes this weekend with wholesome Just Food Co-op food?). Strength work as usual. Extra time devoted to flexibility.

*Sigh* Not the most fun plan, but it’s all I have & I can choose to be down on myself or make the most of this. I’m choosing to be positive & think of this as an opportunity to make myself stronger/more fit/etc. My new motto is to “make myself better today” – every minute that I’m cross training, I think about how it’s making me faster/stronger/more fit. Makes each minute go by a little faster :)PS – I love living, running, and working in small communities. While hammering away on the elliptical today (I look a little phycho, not going to lie), someone came up to me and said, “I saw you running at the park last week! Man, you were flying! I was the man with the big white dog. You aren’t injured, are you?” “Oh, no! Well, hope it’s just something quick! Man, you looked so good out there!” 🙂

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  1. Just a note of caution: stretching an injured achilles does not aid recovery! Let it heal and then start stretching it. Time spent doing workouts like pool running make you appreciate running all the more.

  2. I have enjoyed your recap of the last week. It is very humbling when our bodies do not do what we would like them to do. I blew up my calf last weekend and haven't been able to run either. I like to take these times as a constant reminder that I am unable to accomplish anything on my own. It is only through Christ that we are able. I think you will be very surprised at how well your body will react to having some forced rest/cross training time. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

  3. Two thoughts about aqua-jogging. First, your heart rate will be somewhat lower simply because you are in the pool. The water pressure makes your bp higher and that makes your heart rate lower. I'm not sure how much difference that makes in numbers (I could look it up if you're interested) or how much of a difference you're experiencing, but it's interesting nonetheless. Also, email me if you want ideas for making aqua-jogging harder. I've had people get so good at it that they can't get their heart rate out of the easy effort zone without modifications. Not that any runner wants to "get good" at aqua-jogging, given the reason they're doing it. 🙂

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