Troublesome tendons

There seems to be something in the water, I have seen a lot of these recently….heres some info to hopefully avoid achilles tendinopathy. Prevention is better than cure!

The Achilles is the longest and strongest tendon in the body and is subjected to vast

loads during running. It has an elastic property which allows it to store energy as we land, the tendon then uses this stored elastic energy for propulsion. The Achilles tendon attaches the calf musculature to the heel bone and is made up a something called Collagen, this is thick strong fibrous tissue and in the Achilles tendon the fibres are bundled together like

tightly packed spaghetti. Sometimes the Achilles can become painful, this usually occurs because the tendon cannot deal with excessive loads and starts to break down in an effort to repair itself. This process is largely non inflammatory, despite the condition previously being known as tendinitis indicating inflammation at the tendon. Commonly this occurs in runners because they have done one of two things:

Tried to increase their training load too quickly (too much too soon)

Or they have had a long layoff from running and not graded their return to training. Too much too soon. Desperately trying to get fit in two weeks…ring any bells?! We have all been there.

Sometimes the tendon can be subject to overload due to biomechanical factors such as over pronation, excessive forefoot running, and too much running in minimalist footwear.

Common symptoms are pain, stiffness, and sometimes a swelling or thickening around the tendon. This occurs as the tendon substance starts to change. When tendinopathy sets in the fibres become more spread out (looser spaghetti!) with other substances that should not be there and the tendon thickens. Very often the condition is worse after periods of immobility (first thing in the morning usually the worst), though can improve and “warm up” through the day, or through a run.

Caught early and with the right treatment/ adaptation of training the condition can be improved significantly. So top tips:

Always maintain load through tendons in the off season with light exercise/ jogging

Try to add speedwork into the training program incrementally and maintain the progression

Avoid programs that involve too many “peaks and troughs” of speedwork and heavy milage

Avoid over training in spikes/ minimalist footwear like racers, these are best for speedwork really.

If you think you have got it, get it checked out early, most of the ones I see require an adaptation of training and minimal “treatment” in order to improve symptoms.