Saturday, May 12, 2012

Officially Injured

It would be nice to do a blog about injury without experiencing it first hand but such is life when we dare to push our limits.  As most of you know I've been challenged with a chronic Achilles tendon injury for about seven years.  During that time I could usually train virtually pain free if I warmed up properly before starting my training session.  Well over the last couple of months I've increased the intensity of my training and my scared tendon couldn't keep up.  But as the Blessed Panda's life goes, when I need something it is usually provided.  I have the retired military health insurance, TriCare and when they realigned this year I had to get a new primary care provider.  This new doctor got me a referral to an Orthopedic Surgeon, who in turn referred me to the Physical Therapy department.

Now I'm getting some much needed help for my injury and also learning a lot about the muscles involved in my chosen sport of race walking.  I had a choice I could either grieve over lost training time or look at this as the chance I needed to become a better athlete.  So far the treatments are all about reducing swelling in the tendon and strengthening the muscles that connect to it.  But for the first time I'm also strengthening all the muscles involved in the push off of my rear foot to make it propel me forward in the most efficient way.

Now I have a new set of exercises to add to my daily routine of exercises and stretches.  A big player in the moving forward motion and a muscle that I haven't been strengthening directly is the small inner calf muscle.  This calf muscle hooks directly to the Achilles tendon and in my case can become much weaker than the big calf muscles that we see.  Over the next few weeks I will be strengthening this muscle as well as increasing my range of motion throughout my legs and hips.

Two exercises should be added to every walker and runner's routine.  The first one is to stand backwards on a step so that your heels are hanging off the step.  This is important, bend your knees, now do a set of 25 calf raises with the knees bent.  During each raise make sure to go slow and controlled on the down motion as well as the up motion.  The next is to go up with both feet but down on only one foot.  Do both of these for 3 sets of 25 each.  The Achilles is a weak link for most of us but if you include these 2 exercises along with the others you do then your tendon will be much stronger and since it's directly involved with the push off, it will make you a more powerful athlete.

Thanks for reading.

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