Friday, August 2, 2013

Being on the Ball...My Achilles Heel

Well, for the last month I have been having nagging Achilles issues in my left leg.  Pretty straightforward stuff: a burning pain right where the Achilles attaches to the heel right when I get up in the morning, if I had been seated in a while, and the first 3 to 4 hundred yards of a run.  After I begin moving though, the pain goes away.

The pain is not like the Achilles tendonitis that I suffered from last year.  That paid made it difficult to run at all.  If I warm up, with a brisk walk, the pain goes away within the first half mile.  I believe it is more Achilles bursitis.

While I know it really is a minor problem, it is funny to see how people have noticed and commented on it though.  In fact, someone the other night asked how I injured my leg, quickly jumping to a statement to the effect that if I didn’t run I wouldn’t have the pain.   Well, when I was much heavier (about 240 plus) I had the same pains and probably what I am experiencing was more due to the wear and tear of the additional weight than any amount of running has done.
I know what the main contributing factor is:  I have too many miles on my road shoes.   While I am really good at rotating two pairs (I am a Brooks Adrenaline fan), I have put over 1,000 miles on both of them.  And like clockwork, the Achilles pain began right about the time I hit 400 miles on the first pair.  It got really worse when I hit 400 on the second pair.  So I finally broke down and bought a pair of the Adrenaline GTS 12 that were on clearance.
My first run on them was today and boy can I tell the difference!  My pain was virtually non-existent the entire run which was great.  It’s really funny to me that how adjusting something so basic makes such a change.  
I guess someone who may have read Born to Run may call out that I run in stability shoes with a 12 mm drop and that I am probably shortening my tendon.  And they are probably right to some degree.  However, I do run in Cascadia 8’s with a 9.6 mm drop have had no problems with switching between shoes.  Mind you, since a trail is typically uneven, any need for stability and the related problems with over pronation go out the door. When I need the help of a stability shoes is on the day to day slogging on pavement.

Now, there is also another contributing factor to the pain.  When I sit in a chair for an extended time, I do so with by ankle rolling to the side.  I noticed last year, when I had an extreme case of Achilles tendonitis, that even using a clutch (after not using one in 11 years) exasperated it.  
I have especially noticed the pain at work where I have caught myself doing this on a regular basis.  There is an easy solution for this: using an stability ball as a chair.  When I began running a few years back, I experimented with sitting on the ball at work more to work on my core muscles.  However, I quickly noticed that to properly stabilize the ball you need to keep your feet flat on the floor.  In fact, last year I noticed that my Achilles tendonitis dissipated pretty quickly once I began using one. So I am reincorporating it into my work station to see if it works with this injury..
Now I know using the ball is somewhat controversial and I do not recommend it to everyone.  It is something that you have to work up on, maybe 1 hour a day and moving up to the full eight over the next few days.  To properly use the ball, you need to keep your feet flat on the floor and keep proper posture.  You will find to accomplish the perfect posture; you do need to flex your abdomen and oblique to some degree.  You will also notice that you back muscles may burn for a bit until you have attained the full eight hours. 
 It is key that you have a ball that is properly inflated and that it is the proper size.  If you don’t you may start to feel some strain around your vertebrae due to poor posture.  You may also find that your hip flexors may feel sore because while stabilizing a poorly inflated ball.

For more tips on using a stability ball as a work chair see this video:

So far so good though with the ball and I am really excited about my shoes!  I hope in no time I don’t look like an old man getting out of a chair and hobbling across the street. 

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