By Rick Kaselj, Personal Trainer and Founder of Exercises for Injuries
Every runner gets it. That feeling of a funny knot in the calf or that burn in their heel.
You hope it will go away but many times it does not. It gets worse and worse and worse. It reaches a point that you got to stop running.
It is never fun to have to stop running or to run with pain.
Let me explain what that pain and burning is in your calf or heel.
The Achilles tendon is the large and strong tendon that connects the heel to the calf (gastrocnemius).
It plays a huge role in allowing us to stand upright but more importantly it helps us push forward when running. If you want to run faster, you need your calf to help you out.
What is Achilles Tendinitis?
If you have pain, swelling and sensitivity in your Achilles tendon, there is a good chance that it is Achilles tendonitis.
Achilles tendonitis is the inflammation of the Achilles tendon.
Many times with runners they will have a drastic increase in their training, perform too much speed work or have issues (old, new or wrong type) with their foot wear which all puts excess stress on the Achilles tendon. As the stress on the Achilles tendon continues, the tendon ends up becoming injuries lead to pain, swelling and the tendon being very sensitive.
What can you do about Achilles Tendonitis?
Let me go through a number of things you can to do overcome Achilles tendinitis and get back to running.
Foam Rolling the Calf
When you get Achilles tendinitis, everything in the lower leg tightens up especially in the calf (gastrocnemius). This tightness in the calf ends up making things works as it shortens the calf muscle leading to greater pull on the Achilles tendon.
One thing that is important is to loosen the calf. You can do this by foam rolling the calf. You do this by sitting on the floor and resting your leg on the foam roller so your calf is on it. Now, you prop yourself up so you are putting your body-weight onto the foam roller at the point of your calf. Now you move your body up and down the foam roller.
Key things to remember is to roll over the calf from the heel to just below the back of the knee. Remember there are two heads to the calf. Make sure to rotate your hip in and out in order to target the inner and outer calf muscle.
One last thing, don’t go crazy with the foam rolling. It should be uncomfortable but you should not be in screaming pain. If it is too uncomfortable, you can decrease how much of your body-weight you are putting on the foam roller.
Stretching Out the Calf
This links up with the point before. With the foam rolling we have helped loosen up the calf but now we need to lengthen the calf and Achilles tendon.
You can do a regular calf stretches that you see most runners do. What I find gets an even better stretch is using a calf stretcher. It gives you a better stretch and targets the calf better. You can leave it by the door and whenever you go in or out of the door, you can do a quick calf stretch.
Self Massaging the Calf
Throughout the day I recommend self massaging the calf and Achilles tendon. This helps loosen up any knots, helps with circulation and helps with recovery.
You can keep a container of sports balm that you can use to increase the benefit of the self massage.
All I do is grab and squeeze my calf or use my thumb to dig deeper into my calf. I do this for 2 to 3 minutes.
The Last Word on Overcoming Achilles Tendonitis
Big thing to remember is there is a lot that you can do to help overcome Achilles tendonitis. We went through three things that you can do to speed up your recovery. Make sure to get on the foam roller, stretch out that calf and self massage that Achilles tendon. I know these three things are easy but I know doing them will get you back to running faster.
For further information on recovering from Achilles tendonitis, Rick has developed The Achilles Tendonitis Exercise Solution.