Achilles Tendon – Comeback Case Study

*See comments for most recent updates on my progress – updated 10/1/07. 

Case Study: I have had multiple surgeries on my Achilles tendon (two on one side and one on the other) along with long term acute bouts of tendonitis over a period of 30 years. The surgeries worked by removing bone spurs on my calcaneous (heel bone). This spring, after four months off with a minor tear in my achilles tendon I returned. My orthopedist (so-called sports medicine specialist) did not exactly endorse my return to activity (I listened to my body and weighed the risks). I was fitted for orthotics (I eliminated a root cause).

My first week I “ran” two times and these runs were 400-800 meters of jogging and walking. Other than some tightness I felt no pain. (I listened to my body). The following week I jogged 4-6 x 400 meter intervals (2:00-2:30 each – very slow for me) and walked around for about a minute in between. I also ran for 1-2 miles consecutively at 8:30-10:00 per mile pace. Some days that I ran two or three miles it was split between some morning and some evening running. I find that I do much better with consistent running than lengthy breaks or complete rest days (I listened to my body and how my Achilles stays supple with reduced tightness.)

I am reasonably diligent in doing my rehab exercises (one-legged balance and strength stuff) at least 2-4 times a week (I worked on root cause). I was advised to do them daily but they made me so sore I couldn’t do that (I listened to my body). After three weeks I could run 2 miles in 15:45. I ran four times that week. During my fourth week I ran my first 4 mile run in 35:00. I ran six days. Each day was 2-4 miles. I took one day off. My fingers are crossed. I’m pain free.

My sports medicine orthopedist says for some people it takes as much as a year for all swelling to go down in the injured area. I have found that the swelling has gone down faster in the past four weeks with activity than it did with four months of inactivity. So, I’ll always question, perhaps I should’ve started activity earlier? I’ll never know. For now, upward and onward, one step at a time. I’m happy I’m running.

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About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - trailrunningclub.com. I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for Running-Advice.com. I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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7 Responses to Achilles Tendon – Comeback Case Study

  1. I’m updating my progress here on my comeback from a torn Achilles tendon. I have now logged in successive weeks the following miles: 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 14, 17, 21, 24, 23. Ther first 5 weeks were to just test my Achilles to find out if I should even be running again. I ran 1-2 times per week, 3 times in week 5. My progress has been good. I still ice after about 3/4 of all my workouts. At the Malibu Running Camp it was truly a test. I did some trail running – very slow uphill and very careful on footing. I did some quality repeats – good but not truly fast by my standards (i.e. 5:45 mile but I can run well under 5:00 usually; 81-85 second 400s but I usually do mid to low 70s depending on the workout). I believe that my custom orthotics are a big part of my recovery. I have tried on two occasions to run without them and my Achilles ached late in run and afterwards. I still do exercises but I admit, I have to be more diligent. So, for now, I’m happy I’m running and I hope to be able to race a 5K by mid-Fall. Stay tuned.

  2. Another update:
    The next weeks were 20, 21 and 23 miles weeks respectively. I’m feeling a bit stronger but cannot comfortably run longer than 4 miles on a steady run. Of coures a major factor is the heat right now – this is Phoenix, AZ afterall. I was hoping to be inching up to the 27-30 mile per week range in these weeks. But I’m just physically fried. My Achilles tendon has bothered me now on average only about one workout per week. I ony ice about twice a week recently. I am still taking a morning 800 mg. dose of Ibuprofen per my doctor and anytime I feel discomfort there. I do lower leg exercises/drills 1-2 times per week. I ran on grass in a park and found good response in my legs and Achilles. I’ve been able to run 8 x 400 in 83 average; and 11 x 300 in 62 average. Again, my Achilles responded quite well. I’m going to integrate some gradual inclined hills in the next few weeks. Until things cool down I probably won’t be testing how long I can run without problems.
    Upward and onward!

  3. OK, here I am going on the 3rd month of running in my comeback. Things have been stagnant. I have remained in the 20-25 miles per week range (25, 22, 17); a long run of 4 miles; nothing of quality to write home about.

    I ran 6 miles in a couple workouts on a Monday. Very easy miles but I did test myself with a 2:34 800 and a 74 second 400 in the evening. Felt pretty good. Absolutely no discomfort at all in tendons.

    The next day I ran my first 6 mile run – on a track – 3 miles in about 22:00, brief rest and water (102F), 2 miles in 14:20, brief rest and water; 1 mile in 8:00. It was pretty comfortable through 3. Some dull ache developed in the last 3 miles which is why I backed off in the last mile. No pain, just stiff, dull ache.

    I took a day off completely. Then ran some mild very gradual sloped hills (passively not active hard efforts) on Thursday.

    My achilles was again achey so I took a couple days off. Tested it one day running one mile easy. Took a couple more off.

    Then, just when I thought is was resolved, I awoke one morning and my RIGHT Achilles tendon screamed at me! Like a knife jabbed into it right at the insertion point into the heel. WTF?? I limped for 2 days! Bad.

    So, I’ve taken a few more days off. And today, I feel like a little progress. I tried the Strassburg Sock on the right foot. It only aggavated my left one months ago when I used it so I stopped. But, worth a try again. I wore it for about an hour. Didn’t make it worse. I might try it for awhile to see if it helps.

    Oh, ya, also in the past week I kept ice on my leg too long and actually burned an area around my heel. Stupid.

    So, 99 miles in July and 98 for August. (Funny, 20 years ago that was my weekly mileage!) Can’t break 100 yet. But that’s ok.

    I hope to be jogging again next week. I am always coming back… so watch out!

  4. Ok,
    After a week off (3 miles – only one run) I’m back at it and ran 23 last week. I feel as I did previous to my issues from the last post. 4 miles is my loing single run. I tested myself with a 77 and 74 400 one day. Felt great during the efforts. Wanted to do more but, I knew better. My goal is a 30 mile week this week. Temperatures have finally fallen – highs only in the 90s this week.

  5. 10/1/07 I’ve now put in two consecutive 30 mile weeks. Nothing spectacular on speed or distance. I’m still chopping my mileage up into 2-5 mile increments. I’m going to go for 35 miles this week with the only real difference of trying to get a long run in. Physically (other than the Achilles) I can probably do a 10 miler. I’ll let my body tell me what I can do.

    On the horizon is a 5k race (New Times in Tempe). I have about 4-5 weeks until then. 18:00-18:15 range would be a reasonably good goal at this point.
    Upward and onward!

  6. Pingback: Achilles Tendon - Comeback Case Study - 6 Month Follow-Up « The Running World According to Dean

  7. Shelby says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I’ve been dealing with Peroneal tendonitis for 3 months (after getting through 16 weeks of marathon training without the slightest injury) and although I’ve been working with a physical therapist and an orthopedic surgeon, its been a long slow healing process and I haven’t been able to get much help on easing back into running.

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