Achilles Rehab: Running Strength Training

The steps I’ve taken in my Achilles rehab.. In particular insertional Achilles tendinopathy. Some guidelines which may help you with your achilles troubles.


One of the problems with the Achilles tendon is as you get older it can get a lot weaker. Running alone will not provide the strengthening required.

What’s made my case harder is it’s an insertional Achilles tendinopathy.
Where the Achilles joins the heel you start involving the bone and bursa. The bursa is a fluid-filled sac that usually creates a bit of glide and cushioning. This becomes inflamed and you end up with bursitis. This will create further damage.

In the acute phase of injury the most important part is don’t cause
further damage. So I stopped running, took the load off it
avoided stretching the Achilles. Kept it elevated and used iced the injury for 15 to 20 minutes about every 2 hours with 2 days worth of oral
anti-inflammatories.

Achilles Focus

Tendon injuries require loading to get better. After we get past the first 2-3 days of the acute phase there are 2 key points to follow:

  1. applied load to strengthen the tendon
  2. don’t cause anything to aggravate the injury

One of the biggest problems with an insertional Achilles injury is when you stretch it pulls the tendon across and presses up against the bursa. Any stretching we usually do for our calves will likely aggravate the injury. Doing calf exercises where you drop the heel down below level will stretch the tendon.

Limiting movement and stretch of the tendon while applying load is the early plan.

How do we do that?

Isometrics

You have 2 main muscles in your calves .

The gastrocnemius which is the main muscle that goes from the tendon itself up across the back of the knee and joins just above. You strengthen that mostly with a reasonably straight leg. The other muscle is
the soleus, which joins below the knee. To target that we need to take the gastrocnemius out of it. So you need to do the exercises with a bent knee.

The isometric protocol I used was an isometric calf raise straight leg
and an isometric calf raise bent leg. The plan was to increase the load every week on the proviso that 24 hours after a training session I didn’t have increasing pain. There could still be some discomfort but not an increasing pain from the previous day.

The aim was to do these exercises at least once a day, preferably
twice.

Loading initially was holding 30 seconds with 30 to 60
seconds rest in between. Do that for a week then increase that to 5 times 1 minute with 30 to 60 seconds rest. Progress to 3 x 2 minutes with 30 to 60 seconds rest in between finally ending on 1 x 5 minutes.

Concentrics

After isometrics we moved on to the next level and start introducing some movements.

I kept the isometric training going but this time the training sessions started with some actual movement of calf raise both a straight leg and bent leg.

With body weight the aim was to do 3 sets of starting
at 10 reps and building that up to 20 reps for each exercise. Taking 30-60 seconds rest between movements. The aim was to get it done
almost every day, but I was happy with 5 days a week.

Extra Load

Next progression was to add extra weight to the loading. Using a barbell across the shoulder for the straight leg calf raises. Or across the knees for seated calf raises.

Achilles Progression

The Achilles’ tendon requires loading to improve. It takes time. Longer than we all want it to. Plus this post only covers the early stages. Beyond these first weeks you will need to start addressing power, elasticity and reactive strength. But that is for a future post.

For a look at earlier stages of my Achilles Injury check out the video below

Marathon Base Training : Training during restrictions

I’m gonna take you through my current marathon base training.

There’ll be a few tips on how you can apply it to your own program.

What Is Marathon Base Training?

Most people think it’s lots of slow training. Keeping down the intensity and pushing up the volume.  Lots of long slow distance work. To a point for some applications that might be the case. For me the point of base training is a bit different.

The Point Of Base Training

The point of base training is to develop a well conditioned athletes capable of optimally responding to the demands of competition specific training.

Previous post here: Base Training For Runners

Training To Train

Sounds complex. Basically it’s training to train.

Training to train is getting fit enough to handle the really hard training that makes up your competition specific work. The better your base the harder you can train further down the track. The more gains you can make as you get closer to racing.

Marathon Base Training Outline

I set up my training in four to five day blocks. At the moment given my circumstances, doing a lot of extra work hours. In this new world of corona virus my work is flat-out. Extra night shifts and extra hours. I haven’t really got a pattern. So only looking 4 to 5 days ahead seems to be the best approach at the moment.

In those 4 to 5 day training blocks I’m trying to include:

  • a long run
  • a tempo run
  • strength (running specific)
  • strength (other stuff)
  • easy runs

How these sessions fit into those days will vary with each block. It’s about the best fit each time. I’m gonna try and separate the tempo and the long run with 1 or 2 days in between. I could start with the long run. It could be the second session, or be the 4th. Whatever is the best fit in amongst the rest of life.

Keeping  tabs on recovery and if needed I’ll stick in an extra easy day or recovery day between the training blocks. It’s a work in progress. These times are uncertain at the moment. At the moment I’m still able to run outside. That may change in the not-too-distant future. Isolation or lock down may get stronger. So this plan though allows me to adapt to the ever changing constraints forced upon us. It also is a good setup for other situations as well.

Tempo Run

The tempo run is just my little bit of introduction into something a bit faster or a little bit harder. I’m going to keep it within a heart rate zone between 75 to 87%. Not too concerned about exactly where I sit in that range. Just going to run out on feel. Keep it at a steady consistent effort. An introduction to get my legs and Achilles tendon used to something a little bit faster. Pushing it any quicker than that will leave my Achilles tendon at risk. Faster running at this stage still leads to a bit of a flare-up. The basic approach with these tempo runs is to start out at 20 minutes and each time around will add about five minutes.

MAF Test

About every 2 to 3 weeks I’m going to replace that tempo run with a MAF test. It is the Phil Maffetone test where he’s talking about maximal aerobic function. For me being 42 years old 180 minus 42 that gives me a heart rate of 138bpm. The point for me is to run 8km at exactly that heart rate.

As my training progresses I should be able to maintain that exact same heart rate. How much I slow down from the start to the end of the run should reduce while the average speed of the run should improve.

I’m not following the Meffetone training program. I’m not limiting my training to below that heart rate. As such it’s a good reference point that I can go back over the years for my own training. It will give me a good guide to where my basic fitness sits.

Long Run

Probably my favorite run is the long run.

The aim is to get in about two hours and maintain a heart rate between 65 to 75% of heart rate max. Pacing I don’t really care about. I’m hoping to keep an even pace from the start all the way to the end nothing much more complicated than that.

About every second long run I aim to increase the time out by 10 minutes. On alternative long runs I’ll stick to two hours. Giving the pattern of:

2:00, 2:10, 2:00, 2:20, 2:00, 2:30, 2:00…

Hopefully I can progress safely with this format. As long as the Achilles isn’t flaring up I should be able to.

Strength Training For Marathon Base

For strength training I’m going to do one key session. This is the session that I have will make sure I include every training block. It’s my run specific strength training. Currently  concentrating on the calves, hamstrings and glutes. Predominantly leg work with core strength stability training. This is the primary strength training session. I will always include this. Skipping an easy run if needed.

A second strength session is listed as other. This covers everything that isn’t directly run specific. It can be just some fun stuff, upper body work such as  overhead presses, pull-ups, more core work. Basically anything in order to stay fit for the rest of life and work.

Easy Runs

Easy runs are dotted in between the mix of training. Ideally I’ll be running between 60 and 90 minutes, but I know how time pressures are at the moment. I’ll be happy with anything between 30 and 90 minutes.

Before a 6 a.m. work start I’ll be getting up at 4 a.m. giving about 30 minutes to fit training in. The pace of these easy runs is purely based on intensity.  I’m going to keep the heart rate between 55 and 75% of heart right max.  These easy runs will feel excruciatingly slow. They are so slow that I’ve turned off the pace data fields on my Garmin. I don’t need to know my pace. This helps with the intensity discipline that will allow me to get the ongoing training done. This is why including a semi-regular MAF test means I’m able to keep track of improvements around that first aerobic threshold. Improvement here I can indicate I’m setting up a good base.

Marathon Base Training Summary

The plan is pretty simple:

4-5 day training block to include:

  • long run
  • tempo run
  • strength training
  • easy runs

This simplicity makes it easy to adapt according to different roster cycles and other commitments of life while I’m still able to run outside.

It’s quite doable nothing overly hard in the training. What becomes hard is being able to maintain that consistency over a long period of time.

Keep on running.

4 Week Running Plan: How I Set Training

How do you plan the first four weeks of training after you’ve had a long break from running?

This post will take you through my plan.

4 Week Running Plan

To start out with I’m working in four week blocks. The reason for 4 week blocks it tends to match my work schedule. You could do it in 3 or 4 weeks or even as a month. Something around that range would work. I’d say you need least three weeks to get an idea of whether or not the training program is working. Training takes a bit of patience as you don’t see the results straightaway.

I set up a four week grid:

  • days of the week across the top
  • weeks down the side
4 week training template

Key Runs: Intervals

Start with the main key sessions for this cycle. I’m using interval sessions. These begin with intervals 3 x 4 minutes as the set. Then I’m going to repeat this about every four days. They might jump out to 5 or 6 days depending on how my body reacts.

After a second 3 x 4 minutes interval run I hope to be able to increase the volume. I’ll do that by adding another 4 minute interval. Then in the 3rd week I’ll try to add another interval. Making for 5 x 4 minutes. I’m not sure how my body will take it. I might still be stuck at 4 x 4 minutes. This is the plan if everything goes as expected.

The goal during these intervals runs is to be able to run hard, but maintain the same speed throughout the first interval as well as the last. Of course hard still means hard.

Intervals plan

Long Runs

Next up we’re gonna a secondary key session. That is the long run.

We’ll space it out away from the intervals a little bit so it’s gonna be 2 days after the intervals and 2 days before interval sessions. We’ll be starting at 60 minutes. After 2 runs we’ll extend out by 10 minutes to 70 minutes. Repeat again 4 days later. Beyond that I aim for another 10 minute increase to 80 minutes in the final week.

In the 4th week I want a bit of a break from the higher intensity work. Give the body a chance to recover. A chance to absorb the training and make the adaptations that are needed. If things go to plan two days after that 80min long run I may get in a 90-minute run there.

At the moment long is a relative concept. The long run is mindset at the moment. That mindset is to keep moving in a way that’s sustainable all the time. The long runs are guided by time and effort. That effort is easy.

Long run in the running plan

Easy Runs

Between all these key runs there is one thing left to do. Fill in the gaps. These gaps are easy runs. I’m going to make the first easy run up to a maximum of 60 minutes. Anything shorter is fine. Just fill in all the gaps over the next week Same again for the 3rd and 4th weeks.

We’re keeping the pace way down. So easy it should allow me to be fresh to push the pace on the intervals. It should allow accumulation of run volume relative to what I have been doing.

Why so slow?

Ironically it’s so I can do more and go harder. This comes back to polarized training. Make your easy, easy. Make your hard, hard.

Overtime that slow pace gets faster. You just need patience.

Easy runs

Strides

There’s one more part to these easy runs.

Strides, run throughs, striders, easy sprints or pick ups. Call them whatever you want. Basically they just some short sprints. About 10 seconds to a max 15 seconds where you are sprinting below maximum effort.

Don’t over complicate things. Don’t worry too much about rest. It could be anything from like 30 seconds, a walk back recovery, you can space it out by five six minutes or anything in between. If you start feeling the burn in your legs you’re running too long and too much. This isn’t about fighting through fatigue.

Strength Training

One more element that fits in this is strength training.

I’m aiming to put them on the same day as the interval session. For first week,

I was lucky enough to go away on holiday for the first week. Down at beach I didn’t have the usual access to the weights I do at home. So I used more body weight work. These sessions were a bit lighter, so I was able to fit 3 in for the first week.

Back at home hitting the weights the load was actually a fair bit bigger. Strength training comes back on the interval days and that’s the plan for the remainder. In the fourth week we don’t have any interval sessions so I’m going to put a strength session after that long run. If I’m going to push the distance out to 90 minutes on that Friday a moderate strength session on the day afterwards on the Saturday will be the plan.

4 Week Running and Strength Plan

Extra Tips

Keep your easy, easy. You’ll get more from accumulating some volume at this stage than you will from pushing the paces too much. Staying easy on your easy and long runs you should be able to run faster and harder in the interval sessions.

If you’re not going to run every day, put more time in between the interval sessions. At this point you want the interval sessions about once after every three or four easier more aerobic base type running so if you’re running five times a week that’s probably going to be one interval session every week.

Remember these long runs aren’t really pushing the distance out-crazy. Overall the workload is going to be fairly even throughout. Just gradually pushing out the envelope a little.

First Week Of Run Training At Cape Woolamai

My first week of run training went well. The first day of training started with an interval session:

3 x 4 minutes hard with a 2 minutes recovery jog.

Performed over undulating terrain this was my first real run. It was a struggle. So much slower than hoped. I’ve got a long way to go.

Finally back into my first week of training. I’ll tell you it feels good to be back running. I’ve lost a lot of fitness. If I’m really honest it’s not just since the melanoma that I’ve had time off. It’s more than two months with the injury before that. I hadn’t really put together a good training week for over four months.

Cape Woolamai

Bonus for the first week of running we went down on holiday to Cape Woolamai on Phillip Island. It’s a beautiful location with amazing beaches, nature park, wallabies and views that are fantastic. I highly recommend spending some time down here. Click here for even more details.

First Week Of Running Principles

Truly back at square one. I’m keeping easy at super easy. This means feeling way too slow. Sometimes faster running feels easier. If I was running with someone I would definitely be able to hold a conversation with no trouble.

The training format is intervals followed by three days easy running. Then back again for intervals and another three days of easy running.

Smoke Haze

Getting a lot of the smoke haze coming in from the bush fires. With a bit of hindsight I probably shouldn’t have run. Starting a couple of those runs just as the sun was coming up I didn’t appreciate how bad that smoke was. Not until I got towards the end and had enough sunlight.

For the first week those easy days were all about 60 minutes. Limited to just covering some distance to get used to running again. No worry about pace. In fact I set up my watch so that all it showed was time. No pace, no heart rate, nothing about effort or even distance. That way I wouldn’t have to worry about how fit I used to be versus how fit I am now.

Running Intervals

For the intervals. Starting with three by four minutes with two minutes recovery. That recovery is just a super easy jog. Those four minutes on are definitely not easy. The aim here is to run at a pace that I can maintain for all intervals right to the end. I went out too hard and couldn’t maintain that pace anyway.

The first week of run training went well. It’s so good to be back running.

The beauty of Cape Woolamai comes out better in video than it does in word…

Before The First Step Of Running: Returning After Time Off

They say a journey begins with the first step. But it begins before that. Getting back to running after injury, melanoma, skin graft and rehab I had to rebuild back up to that first step.

This 2020 journey begins with a less-than-ideal 2019. The main event was finding out I had Melanoma skin cancer: click for details

No Running

After injury, melanoma, a skin graft, time off work and rehab I was happy with moving a little closer to normality. The skin graft was my main limitation.

Weeks of bed rest. Weeks of no running.

Surprisingly I didn’t miss running all that much but I was getting frustrated at not being able to move like I used to be able to. More details here: 5 Weeks After Melanoma Surgery

First Run

Eventually I was able to go my first run.

It was for ten minutes and it felt awkward.

The idea of running felt great. I was happy to be out there again. But I wasn’t smooth. My body had forgotten what it was meant to do.

Bit by bit I built my running back up. The skin graft still provided limitations. I had to get creative to improve my running. Finding ways to prepare my legs without risking the healing.

Not Just Running

Those creative ways included:

  • step ups with a high knee lift
  • calf raise with a deep drop
  • directional hopping

These exercises appear in the video above. They are simple, but sometimes a visual makes it easier to understand.

The hopping was actually harder than it should have been. It’s amazing how much of the skills and coordination you lose after being bed down for four weeks.

The aim was to get back to where running felt good. Over the weeks I eventually got there. Running feels good again. That’s step one. There are many more steps to take.

Skin Graft Update: 5 Weeks After Melanoma Surgery

Just had the week five check up on my skin graft. Here’s the update…

It’s healing well but not perfectly at this stage. A couple of days earlier I was a little concerned. There seemed to be a bit of splitting around the edges. I wasn’t too sure if this was anything to be worried about.

I took it easy and they did heal up a bit. Better, but after having a chat with the surgeon he would have liked the graft to be completely solid. Which it’s not quite there yet.

Young For A Skin Graft

The surgeon suggested younger people like myself can take an extra week or 2 around this stage. Which is quite good that at 42 I can be considered young. My kids keep telling the opposite.

A bit of Kenacomb cream has been added to assist the last bit of healing. The skin graft should be considered solid within 2 weeks.

I still have to give the graft plenty of TLC. Keep it protected and that means I am well off running. I’ve got to get through another stage of healing before I even look at beginning the process back.

I don’t think I’ll be out for a run before the end of this year.

It is what it is is. Still at least another 2 weeks before I can get back to a normal-ish life. Even though there will still be limitations.

For the extra details on where this all started this post: Melanoma skin cancer: now bed bound and no running. covers it.

Be sun smart out there.

Super Slow Reps: Training When You Can’t Train

How do you training when you can’t train? Making use of super slow reps while I’m limited in the exercise I can do.

Limitations

At 3 weeks post skin graft I’m finally allowed to do a very small amount of exercise. Even though the graft is healing well, it is far from mature. I still have to protect it. I’m not allowed to do any leg exercise. Plus the stitches at the front of my right hip limit plenty of movements.

Limited in how much time I can spend up right before having to elevate my leg. I also have to avoid sweating. All training will be well within these limitations.

To stay within those limitations I am performing some upper body strength training. The session will be under 30 minutes. Weights will be kept extremely light.

How do I get the most benefit from this?

The answer is make each repetition super slow.

How Slow Are Super Slow Reps?

Well, super slow reps are way slower than is comfortable. As slow as 10 seconds up, and 10 seconds down.

Slowing the exercises down this much increases the time under tension which may provide an increased stimulus, Plus it provides the opportunity to improve the mind-muscle connection. Make those adjustments to technique to target exactly the movement and muscles that I’m aiming for.

The slow speed keeps the whole body effort lower, reducing the likelihood of a raised core temperature and sweating.

Taking the opportunity to work on something different and some corrective work. So I’m performing some work on my shoulders and upper back. Aiming to open them up. Remove the feeling of being closed and rounded forward from all the sitting and lying with my leg over the previous weeks.

The Training

2 sets of 2-10 reps, with a rest of 2-3 minutes in between.

The key is to keep some difficulty in maintaining in the final few reps, but not working hard through my whole body.

Exercise selection:

  • Pull up
  • Bench press
  • Rear deltoid raise with supination
  • Seated dumbell press
  • Later deltoid raise
  • Dumbell preacher curl

These exercises are better demonstrated in video, than in words. So I cover this in my following vlog:

Not the most extensive or intense training. This at least has me moving while keeping well within the limitations I have with a skin graft. Now I can actually start doing some exercise I feel happier.

Melanoma Skin Cancer – Now Bed Bound and No Running

Bed bound is a change of pace. But when you find out you have Melanoma skin cancer, it’s a starting point.

That mole on my leg that I’ve mentioned previously. I had it removed. Then after a wait the pathology results came back.

Turns out it was more sinister than first thought and hoped. It turned out to be melanoma. Lets break down exactly what melanoma is.

What Is Melanoma?

  • Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer
  • It makes up 2% of skin cancers, but is responsible for 75% of skin cancer deaths
  • Australia and New Zealand have highest melanoma rates in the world
  • 1 in 17 Australians will be diagnosed with melanoma before the age of 85
  • Most melanomas are caused by prolonged and repeated exposure to UV radiation in sunlight
  • More than 90% of melanoma can be successfully treated with surgery if detected early

These facts were collated from Melanoma Patients Australia. Head over to their website here for more information.

Levels of Melanoma

The Clark Scale has 5 levels:

  1. Cells are in the out layer of the skin (epidermis)
  2. Cells are in the layer directly under the epidermis (pupillary dermis)
  3. The cells are touching the next layer known as the deep dermis
  4. Cells have spread to the reticular dermis
  5. Cells have grown in the fat layer

Life In The Sun

I have spent so much of my life in the sun. I have chased the warmth and love the outdoors. Running, cycling, swimming, beach, hiking, camping and just being outside. Sunburnt way too many times.

It all adds up.

There is no such thing as a healthy tan.

Diagnosis

Lucky for me my melanoma is at Level 1.

Melanoma Clark Level 1

Treatment

Treatment is surgery.

Cut it out Cover with a skin graft and nothing should have spread elsewhere.

Prognosis is good.

Right now my treatment includes looking after the skin graft. Which is bed rest, compression and elevation of my leg.

There’s an element of boredom in there. Maybe some frustration at not being able to move. I don’t want all the work of surgery and the efforts of the surgeon, nurses, anaethestist and everyone else involved to go to waste.

The Biggest Lesson

We often don’t like to admit it. The biggest lesson I have taken from this is…

I should listen to my wife.

My wife told me to get the mole checked for 18 months. With no good reason, I put it off.

Lucky I didn’t keep waiting.

Melanoma Vlog

For the video version of this post click here

, melanoma removal, skin graft, youtube, vlog, bed bound and no running for 6 weeks

Running Blog To Running Vlog

Adding a running vlog onto my running blog.

Running is a big part of my life. I have taken running seriously for over 20 years. I’m not an elite. Far from it. Very much an amateur. Yet running helps me feel alive.

Why A Running Vlog?

Last year for my birthday my birthday my family got me a GoPro. They’ve said it has been one of the best presents they’ve ever given me. It’s had so much use.

I’ve been filming family videos. The kids in their sports. Putting together videos for my son’s footy team. I’ve loved making these videos.

Naturally this has moved into how I document my running. Venturing into the world of vlogging.

I hope to make training processes clearer. Bring you into how I fit running in among family, life and shift work. I will be able to capture more thoughts as they happen.

I’ll be featuring the videos on my Running Alive Youtube Channel (here).

What About The Blog?

I’ll be continuing the blog in conjunction with the vlog. They will support each other. Some topics are better shown through video. Others are better for writing.

The change in approach will allow for a more regular and consistent blog than I have achieved so far.

This running vlog is a new concept for myself. Let me know if anything is helpful or if there’s anything you want to see.

To follow along subscribe here!

Running And Skin Checks

In the harsh sun of Australia, running and skin checks should go hand in hand. Interrupting my running to have a skin check. I was actually a little bit nervous. 

Take Good Advice

I finally listened to my wife and got a skin check. Make sure everything’s all right. Check all the moles and make sure that none are cancerous

This check should have been performed earlier. Living in Australia and spending plenty of time in the sun means I’m at risk.

The doctor managed to find some moles which were a bit concerning. He wasn’t particularly worried about them. But they still met the criteria to be removed. So that’s what I did.

I have to admit I wasn’t thinking much it until I arrived. There is something about having a piece cut out of your body. Even though it’s superficial. It still makes you think.

Skin Checks And Skin Cancer

Head on over to the Skin Cancer page of the Cancer Council for more detailed information.

Running And Stitches

Good news is after the moles were removed, the doctor was confident they won’t be a problem. Of course they are sent off to be properly tested. To get that 100% piece of mind.

The process has put a gap in my running. The cut has needed 4 stitches on my lower leg. Running puts a strain on those stitches. So a few days off running and a gentle return back in as the cut heals.

In some way it’s a little frustrating. My rebuild back from a toe injury is delayed. Importantly I prefer to put health before fitness. It comes back to knowing your why.

Running Vlog

Jump on over to my vlog on this at youtube about running and skin checks.

For further running updates and tips don’t forget to subscribe

Chasing Moments