The question: I am a runner, and a while ago my doctor diagnosed me with tendinitis in my Achilles tendon. After a lot of rehab, my doctor has cleared me to start running again. I want to be smart about my training this time. Any suggestions?
The answer: Before you hit the road again, I suggest you have a qualified fitness professional assess your running gait. You should also assess the running habits you had before your injury. Did you increase your speed or volume too quickly? Answering such questions truthfully will help you avoid any mistakes that may have led to the injury.
When you do begin running, start slowly, doing intervals that combine running and walking and taking every other day off. Gradually increase the duration of your running intervals by a maximum of 10 per cent per week. Be sure to do a proper warm-up before you begin, but don’t perform any static stretches.
I also recommend cross-training, especially rowing, as a low-impact alternative. Rowing can help strengthen the VMO (inner knee muscle), which typically is underdeveloped in runners.
Make sure you do weekly strength-training sessions that include exercises focusing on the core, glutes, VMO and foot and ankle muscles. For example:
1. At the end of a run, stand on one leg and balance for 30 seconds. To challenge yourself, close your eyes.
2. Bridge with leg lifts: Lie on your back with your legs bent, feet on the floor. Lift your hips in the air. Use your bum muscles to keep your hips stable and alternate hovering one foot off the ground at a time.
After you run, pay particular attention to stretching your calves, and do a proper cool-down. And take time to recover. Always take one full day off from exercise per week.
Trainer’s Tip: These guidelines are not just relevant for those with injuries. I suggest all runners follow them to stay injury-free for life.