I just returned from my second visit to the orthopedist and the good news is my torn Achilles tendon is now only 1.5 times the size it should be. This is significant because just a month ago it was more than twice as large as the healthy one.
Here's what’s worked:
Doing the bulk of my cardio in a gym. I’ve been using the rowing machine and stationary bikes to try and shed some extra holiday weight. I haven’t dropped an ounce, but my pulse and resting heart rate are spot on. I’ll incorporate the elliptical next week, now that I know the tear is finally fusing – to what, I’m not sure. The final stage will be to start running, in March, on the treadmill, which provides the most giving surface for this injury. The gym has become my lab of sorts. I experiment with what works for my body at various stages of the healing process.
Getting my outdoors fix by walking and doing “gentle hiking.” I don’t make a very good gym rat. Even when I lived in places with brutal winters, I had trouble convincing myself to work out inside. So, I alternate gym days with early morning walks and hikes in a nearby canyon. I have to be careful, though. Hills are hard on your tendons, as are climbing over rocks. So, I pick relatively rock-free, level trails. Now that I know the ankle's strong enough, I can venture out on my bicycle too.
Religiously taking my Rx anti-inflammatory. This was hard for me, who’d sworn off NSAIDs like Motrin after my kidneys malfunctioned in a marathon. I couldn’t up the dosage to three pills a day, as my doctor recommended. It killed my stomach. At least now the prescription will last longer, too.
Heating my tendon before stretching. I heat a damp washcloth in the microwave for 30-45 seconds and apply it to the ankle/lower calf for 5-10 minutes before I do anything involving stretching. This really helps loosen tight, sometimes cold muscles.
Doing specific stretches for the tendon. This was really hard at first because it really, really hurt, and part of the reason for this injury is I confused levels of pain. I also have to do the stretches at different angles to strengthen the entire foot and lower leg. I’m hoping the yoga I’ve recently introduced helps here.
Icing after my walks/hikes. I should do this after a gym workout, but by the time I get home I’m in another mode. Still, soon as I’m home from the canyon trails, I grab a bag of frozen pebbles encased in cloth. Frozen peas or corn works just as well. This molds to the ankle so the cold can seep in. Today, my doctor recommended I take icing to a new level and actually massage it into the wound for 15, even 20, minutes post-workout. He also told me I will need to do this for years.
I mention my routine as a way to help other runners either avoid or aid achilles tendonitis (very common) or an achilles tendon tear (one of the worst running injuries to have). I can’t believe how excited I am to soon be running on a treadmill. But it just goes to show how much I’ve changed.