An app that actually helps runners live healthier lives
I recently stumbled upon a new and unique tool designed to address one of the biggest challenges faced by many runners. Injuries are problematic for runner’s of all ages, especially middle age athletes. The founders of Recover Athletics have just launched an app that provides customized recovery and pre-hab plans for runners of all abilities. I reached out to the team, including CEO, Nick Stewart and asked if I could take the app for a “test spin.”
In this article, I provide a thorough review of the Recover App.
Recover Athletics is the first performance recovery platform for endurance runners. Their goal is to help runners manage and proactively prevent overuse injuries.
Their website consists of the gateway to primary product, the Recovery App, which I review below. They also have a blog with detailed articles focused on running and injury prevention. They host the Run Healthy Podcast. The latest episode is an interview with 2020 Olympic Marathoner Qualifier, Molly Seidel (a Notre Dame Alum like myself).
Once your profile is created, the app walks you through a series of questions to gather data on the extent of any current injuries or nagging pains. The app actually asks “What’s Sore Today.
The app also integrates with Strava or allows for manual input of weekly mileage, pace and duration of workouts. One of the goals of the app is to use AI to provide users with custom pre-hab or recovery plans. These routines are professionally developed by medical professionals from Massachusetts General Hospital.
Next you can create a “Recovery” for your specific injury or weakness.
Recoveries consist of set of 6-7 specific exercises that address your issue.
The app contains 100+ exercises for runners
The goal is to use your “Recovery” routines to recover and stay injury free
You can set up a daily recovery reminder for a specific time and days of the week.
In my case, Plantar Fasciitis has been a problem for the last 10 months. I’m at the back end of the injury, so I followed the prompts to create a Plantar Fascia Recovery. The app generated a 6 exercise x 10 minute recovery that’s comprised of various stretches and strength exercises.
Below is a screenshot of my Plantar Fascia Recovery
The recovery begins when the user clicks on the start button. Next you simply complete the exercises as directed by the app. Easy to follow directions are provided for each exercise. The videos are clear and the underlying benefits for runners of each exercise are discussed.
Each time you sign on the app, it will connect with Strava to gather your latest workouts or if you don’t use Strava, you will be asked about your weekly mileage. The app will ask you to rate the pain from your current injury.
Based on the input provided, the app generates an “Insights” graph that monitors your training, recovery and soreness over time. You can then break down trends of your recovery over a set period of time, as well as supplement your routines with stretches and other useful post-recovery tips. As you can see in the screenshot below, my mileage has been limited, but the soreness of my injury has declined over the last month.
Another app feature, if you allow, is occasional “push notifications” that appear on your phone. I’ve only seen a few, so you don’t think you will feel harassed (like some social media notifications). One was notification of the Molly Seidel podcast.
The paid version of the app allows users to create additional recoveries. This is useful if you had some weaknesses, such as hip or glutes that often contribute to injuries.
I also created a glute recovery that consists of a combination of 6 stretch & strength exercises. Since glute weakness and hip instability are often root causes of many lower body injuries, this recovery is particularly beneficial.
Recovery App Studio
In my opinion, the best feature of the Recover app is with the Studio. This is a collection of your personalized recovery routines, as well as specific strengthening & mobility routines. Similar to the recovery routines, the strengthening & mobility routines are very targeted and include detailed video instruction for a set of 6-7 stretches and strength exercises. The mobility sequence includes:
Marathoner’s recovery bible
Cool down essentials
Roll out and & get loose
The Strengthening sequence is very comprehensive, comprised of 14 different routines, including :
It’s all in the hips
We love resistance bands
The marathon prepper
Going couch to 5k
Run for Health
Runner’s daily strengthening
I completed a couple of the routines, including the “It’s all in the hips” and “Runner’s daily strengthening” routine. I found the instructions are excellent and easy to follow. I really like the explanations of the benefits gained by completing each exercise. Another nice feature is that each routine includes a modify option where you can see how to make the exercise easier or harder. I’ve placed a few photos below of me working out using app.
As a coach, I think the app has a lot of value. I coach people of varying abilities with different goals and challenges. If they are injured or feel some pain coming on, I can now use the app to suggest a specific recovery. My plans include numerous conditioning/strength training routines which I can now modify and assign directly from the app.
Overall Assessment: 5/5
Overall, I’m a big fan of the recover app and plan and recommend it. It’s informative and easy to use. It’s great for runners of all abilities and ages. Consistency in training and remaining injury free is essential if you want to reach your goals. This app allows runners to recover the wear and tear of long distance training. Being able to customize your routines based on specific input allows you to minimize your risk of injury.
I think that having access to a suite of professionally developed strengthening exercises and stretches that are targeted to specific parts of your body is a huge win. The exercises included in each routine only take minutes to complete.
At this time, the Recover app is available for iOS in the Apple app store. There’s a free version which provides a single recovery. The paid version ($2.99/month or $24.99/year) allows access to the entire suite of studio routines and multiple personalized routines. With plans to add routines to the Studio throughout the year, the annual subscription is a good value.
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The Ultimate Middle Age Runner’s Guide to IT Band Syndrome
Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is the one of the most common running injuries . It is the main cause of lateral knee pain in runners. In this article, I will discuss signs & symptoms of IT band syndrome. Additionally I will review how best to diagnose, treat & cure ITBS. Lastly and most important, I will review strategies to strengthen and prevent ITBS from recurring or occurring in the first place.
I’m not a trained medical professional, so please use the contents of this post as guidance. As a certified coach, I have used a network of medical professionals as resources for my injuries to whom I refer my local clients. If you’re experiencing any kind of pain that forces you to change your gait, then you should stop running and seek professional medical attention to properly diagnose, treat and prevent recurrence of your injury.
The iliotibial band (IT band) is a thick band of fibers that runs from the pelvis and down the outside part of the thigh until it attaches into the tibia (shinbone). The gluteal or buttock muscle fibers and the tensor fascia latae (muscles of the hip joint) attach to it. The IT band serves to coordinate muscle function and stabilize the knee during running.
Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) shows itself as pain caused by inflammation of the band as it crosses the lateral femoral epicondyle (this gives attachment to the one of the ligaments of the knee-joint. A bursa or sac in this area allows the IT band to glide over the end of the femur. If you’re suffering from this injury your IT band usually gets sore after a set distance into a run.
It’s common that you may not initially feel pain for the first few miles, but eventually the outside of your knee will start to ache and ultimately the pain progresses from a dull stiffness to a sharp or burning pain in your knee.
If your IT band is too tight, bending your knee creates friction. This leads to swelling of your IT band and bursa, which results in the pain of IT band syndrome.
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Unfortunately, if these symptoms are ignored, further inflammation and scarring may occur in the bursa, causing progressive knee pain. Most runners report that their pain is worse when going down hills. They also feel pain when sitting with their legs bent for a long time.
Root Causes and Risk Factors IT Band Syndrome
Inflammation of the IT band most often occurs because of overuse. It’s very common with long-distance runners, especially athletes training for longer races.
Root cause is typically one or more factors:
Bio mechanical issues such poor flexibility and weak quads, glute & hip muscles (discussed below). Weak hamstrings are another contributor. Other less common mechanical issues (such as leg length discrepancy) can cause the injury.
Training errors such as running on one side of the road only where there’s slight slant will cause one leg to always be downhill from the other.
Hip abductor and external rotator muscle weakness . In a healthy and strong runner, these muscle groups keep the hip abducted (moving inward towards midline) and the knee externally rotated, which limits the strain on the IT band. Unfortunately, when these muscles are weak, the hip adducts (moves away from midline and the knee internally rotates after impact with the ground. This results in pressure on the IT band and the underlying sensitive tissue as discussed above. Since the hip muscles control the mechanics of your knee, if you have weak hip abductor muscles and poor hip rotator muscle strength, your knee will be at a higher risk of injury.
Diagnosis – When to See a Doctor
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms and the pain is causing you to change your gait, I strongly recommend getting with a medical professional to discuss your pain. A physical examination is often necessary to confirm ITBS. Typically they will look for general tenderness over the site of the iliotibial band at the knee joint, and they’ll seek tender points where the bursa is located.
Oftentimes the medical professional will complete additional examination so they can see if some weakness or imbalance in the hips, glutes, quads and/or hamstrings is root cause.
This imbalance or weakness is the most common root cause.
Also, because many athletes complain that their IT band is tight, a qualified health care provider will having the patient complete a variety of stretches and not only confirm tightness, but also recommend appropriate stretches.
IMPORTANT: DON’T STRETCH THE IT BAND
It’s not a “stretchy” tissue.
Research suggests that you should target the muscles that attach to the IT band: the gluteus maximus and the TFL.
Pain should be a signal to a runner that a problem exists and often signals an overuse situation. Rest, ice, and appropriate use of over-the-counter antiinflammatory medications) may be adequate therapy to return to your previous activity level. However, keep in mind that pain can be a signal that some kind of bio-mechanical problem exists, and left untreated it may lead to future injuries.
If this conservative home treatment fails to completely resolve IT band pain or if the symptoms worsen, or if the symptoms occur with decreasing amounts of activity, it’s time to be seen by a health care professional for further evaluation and treatment.
Medications & Treatment Options for IT Band Syndrome
Initially the goal with a diagnosis of IT Band Syndrome is to control & minimize the pain. This can be accomplished with anti-inflammatory meds such as ibuprofen. Also, ice can be applied to reduce inflammation.
Since IT Band Syndrome typically occurs with runners, the medical professional treating the injury may recommend that the athlete stop running for a short time. Acceptable exercise alternatives during treatment are usually non-impact activities such as swimming, elliptical, rowing and biking. I recommend discussing what’s acceptable with your treating health care professional, because each case varies.
Physical therapy is a common treatment option for many patients. To ensure the most appropriate treatment, the PT will often assess the patient’s running gait and style. Their goal is to identify any underlying bio-mechanical causes of the IT band inflammation. In addition to the gait analysis, my PT also completed a flexibility and muscle strength assessment.
Although the root cause of IT Band Syndrome is typically from weak hip & glute muscles in addition to weak hamstrings, I’ve interviewed a couple of PTs who suggested that depending on the runner’s gait, changing to a more stable running shoe or an orthotic insert did help correct any imbalances or abnormalities.
In my experience and in discussing with my PT, rest, ice, and physical therapy should be able to resolve the injury. However, if pain continues to persist, the health care provider may consider a corticosteroid injection into the inflamed area. This can be painful, therefore it’s typically a last resort.
Use a foam roller to loosen up soft tissue around the IT band, however, avoid rolling over the painful area.
The Best IT Band Exercises
For Preventing, Correcting & Managing Your Injury
CLAMSHELLwith band – Lie on one side. Prop your head in your hand. Bend knees at 90 degree angle. Use fitness band below your knees. While keeping the feet together, lift the keen on the top leg. Make the small movement shown in the photo (lift the knee until you feel a contraction in your glute. Repeat 10-12 times and then switch sides.
Bridge – Lie on your back on the floor. Bend your knees & keep your feet flat on the floor as shown. Lift the hips us as high as you can until you contract your glutes. Keep squeezing your glutes as you slowly lower your hips to the ground.
For additional challenge, lift up & straighten one leg while pointing your toe. Another variation is with a resistance band around your legs, just above your knees.
Lateral Band Walk – Put a resistance band around your legs as shown below. Bend your knees slightly and facing forward, take small steps to one side while squeezing your glutes and hip muscles. Repeat the same movement, but in the opposite direction. While performing this exercise ensure you keep your chest and head upright and facing forward. Go about 25 – 30 feet in each direction.
Single Leg Squat – With legs slightly further apart than shoulder width, face forward. Lift one leg up and point toe forward while slowly squatting with the other leg (to prevent falling backwards, keep a stool behind you and keep squatting until just above the stool). Keep check & head upright. Outstretch arms to improve balance. Do not let the knees move forward of your toes. Repeat the squats 6-8 times initially and then increase as you get stronger. Repeat on the other leg.
Planks – Very effective for maintaining upright running form and strengthening your core. This helps to make you a more efficient runner, which can takes the pressure off your knee. If you’ve never done planks, starting by holding position shown in photo for 30 seconds. Gradually increase hold in 15 second increments to 1:30.
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Achilles Tendonitis is a very common injury among runners of all abilities. A University of Wisconsin Study of track injuries reported that during a 17 year period, tendonitis accounted for nearly 9% of reported injuries. It is an inflammation of the band of tissue that connects calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to your heel bone.
I suffered through this injury for over a year until I was properly diagnosed and treated. It really slowed my training, so my goal with this article is to share the symptoms, risk factors, treatment options and best prevention strategies so you can prevent achilles tendonitis from slowing your training.
I don’t recommend self diagnosis of any sporting injury because every injury is different in some way and each requires specific assessment and treatment. If you suspect you may have achilles tendonitis, I urge you to get it properly diagnosed by a trained and certified medical expert. It would be irresponsible of me as a certified coach to attempt to manage your injury in an article.
Use the following information for guidance only. Although I provide much researched details along with a logical and effective rehab program recommendations, I am not a qualified medical professional, so I encourage athletes to seek professional medical opinion for diagnosis and to confirm treatment protocol for any injuries.
Symptoms & Warning Signs
Achilles Tendonitis is often characterized as an overuse injury. The tendon may be painful to touch or move. The area may be swollen and warm. You may have trouble standing up on one toe. You may also have trouble finding shoes that fit comfortably.
Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash
For most athletes, the injury starts as mild discomfort or ache in the back of the leg or above the heel, typically experienced at the beginning of a run. Tenderness, stiffness or the ache may just be in the morning, but often improves with mild activity. However, as the injury persists untreated or more typically untreated properly, the pain becomes more severe and continues after prolonged running (especially on hills), stair climbing or sprinting.
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As the pain persists and if left untreated, where the athlete continues to train, the tendon gets weaker, making it more vulnerable to a tear (rupture). This a painful injury that usually requires surgical repair. This is why if you experience persistent pain around the Achilles tendon and it’s affecting your running gait, you need to seek professional medical attention. Do this before the pain becomes too severe or the achilles tendon becomes torn (ruptured).
Achilles tendonitis typically has two causes. One is muscular and the other structural. It’s more common as you age, because the structure of the Achilles tendon weakens with age, which can make it more susceptible to the injury.
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The structural cause of achilles tendonitis is weakness in ankles and feet. Excessive pronation (rolling inward on the foot when walking or running) turned out to be the primary factor for my injury. A naturally flat arch in your foot can put more strain on the Achilles tendon. Other structural causes include chronic ankle instability or a recurrent “giving way” or rolling of the ankle.
Also runners with a slight leg-length discrepancy, can cause the body to compensate and put soft-tissue structures like the Achilles tendon more vulnerable to a tear.
The muscular cause is short, inflexible (tight) calf muscles which can develop over time with runners who don’t perform regular stretching & strengthening exercises. There are two large muscles in the calf. When they are strong and stretched out, they create the power needed to push off with the foot or go up on the toes. However, if the calves are short and inflexible, the achilles tendon will then attempt to compensate for the limited range of the calf muscle, so any strain from footstrike to takeoff will be absorbed by the tendon.
In my experience, it’s common for runners to have tight calf muscles, so as you can see below, calf stretches is one of the primary focuses for rehab and prevention.
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Other risk factors
-Athletes new to running or just starting on a training program.
-Sudden drastic (more than 15% per week) increases in weekly mileage.
-Sudden increases in speed work or hill training
-Wearing high heels regularly can shorten the Achilles tendon, making it more prone to injury
-Prior history of achilles injuries
-Old (worn-out) or improper running shoes (shoes that don’t offer sufficient heal support or stability)
Photo by Daniel von Appen on Unsplash
-Weakness in the hips & glutes
-Poor biomechanics (form or gait), which is often the result of structural or muscular issues discussed above.
The bottomline is that there’s many risk factors that contribute to achilles tendonitis. Typically it’s a combination of these factors that result in the onset of the injury.
A physician should diagnose the cause of the pain. This is very important. Although this is a comprehensive article, it should only be used as a reference. Do not use the contents of this article to self diagnose your injury.
A doctor’s diagnosis will come from a combination of a physical exam, the patient’s history (filling out a questionnaire) and if necessary, diagnostic tests. The tendon will be very tender when palpating (feeling) or squeezing it from the sides. There may be a nodule or lump felt in the middle of the tendon.
Another test is the “calf-squeeze” where they test the integrity of the Achilles tendon. The doctor may also ask the patient to do a series of exercises such as hops, jumps or leg lifts. They want to understand the level of activity-related pain, as well as exactly where the pain occurs.
Besides the clinical exam, the doctor will ask questions of the patient to ensure all details of the injury are understood.
For example, patients may describe pain as sharp versus dull, intermittent versus constant, and mild or severe. What makes the patient better or worse, such as whether the pain increases with activity. There will also be questions about his or her recent sports involvement, including any changes to the training schedule, surface or type of sport being played. Patients should expect to report past injuries and/or inflammations of the Achilles tendon, including when and how they occurred, if they recurred, and what treatments were used or have been recently used.
Lastly, the patient will be asked to describe any changes in the Achilles tendon area, such as increasing pain at the bony prominence at the back of the heel, swelling, tenderness, redness, or loss of strength or range of motion.
X-rays aren’t typically used in diagnosis of tendonitis, instead they can be used to help diagnose if there’s any bone problems. However, an MRI or Ultrasound scan can determine the extent of the injury and indicate a precise diagnosis.
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The main treatments for Achilles tendinitis DO NOT involve surgery. However, it is important to remember that it may take at least 2 to 3 months for injury to properly heal. Although most athlete’s don’t want to hear it, they will need to temporarily decrease or stop any activity that causes pain. If they can do so without pain and if their physican gives the “go-ahead” the athlete may be able to continue run or walk on smooth, soft & flat surfaces. I would definitely recommend avoiding hills & speed activity.
Different therapy options can get you back to the trails and running healthy. Typically a doctor or physical therapist will recommend any number of the following nonsurgical activities:
To fight the pain, oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed to reduce pain and ease swelling. People with asthma, kidney disease, or liver disease should first check with a doctor. Steroid injections, like Cortisone, can reduce tendon swelling, but they don’t cure the problem. In my research, I found a number of sources indicate concerns that taking these kind of shots were associated with a greater risk of tendon rupture. Remember, managing the pain is only the initial part of the treatment. The ultimate goal should be to address the root cause and prevent recurrence.
Other pain management strategies involve elevating the foot and keeping it raised above the level of the heart to help reduce swelling. An icing program involves applying ice to the Achilles tendon area for 15 to 20 minutes, 2 to 3 times per day. Remove the ice if the injured area gets numb.
Alternatively, runners can switch to low impact activities such as biking, eliptical, swimming, rowing machines or other activities that put less stress on the Achilles tendon.
Once the pain is managed, physical therapy and shoewear modification the most typical treatments for patients with tendon inflammation and early degeneration. For overweight runners or runners who pronate or have bio mechanical risk factors, high stability running shoes will help to prevent the injury from recurring. If you’re not sure what shoes are high stability, ask the experts at your local specialty running store. I while back, I wrote a detailed article about how to pick the right running shoes.
One of the treatments that my physical therapist tried in order to allow me to run a race, was heel lifts. These moved my foot away from the back of the shoe. Unfortunately, it only helped for about half the race, before the pain returned and became unbearable.
One unproven treatment option is with platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections. I don’t have any experience with this treatment, but during my research for this post, it was identified as an option. However, a recent study couldn’t conclude that this was a viable protocal to treat the injury.
If the above treatments DO NOT improve symptoms, you may need surgery to remove inflamed tissue and abnormal areas of the tendon. If there is a bone spur irritating the tendon, surgery can be used to remove the spur. These options are rare, but I wanted to point them out.
In most cases, lifestyle changes help improve symptoms. However, it’s important to remember that symptoms may return if you DO NOT limit activities (risk factors) that cause pain or if you correct bio mechanical risk factors, including stabilizing the foot, strengthening weak supporting muscles and correcting short calf muscles.
This is exactly what happened to me years ago. I would rest, ice, change to a more stable shoe and attempt to strengthen my calf muscles, but the root cause for me was a combination of pronation, weak glutes and hips and my footstrike was mostly on my heal (as opposed to fore or mid foot).
It’s really important that you ultimately understand which risk factors are causing your Achilles tendinitis. Left unproperly treated, the injury may make you more likely to have an Achilles rupture. This condition will cause a sharp pain that feels as if you have been hit in the back of the heel with a stick and surgical repair will be necessary.
Prevention is by far the best way to avoid potentially major problems with Achilles tendon pain. It is far better to complete a program of 10 – 15 minutes of stretches & exercises a few times per week than have 2-3 months out of training or risk an Achilles rupture.
Below are stretching exercises that would be perscribed by your health care provider or physical therapist. they should be done under the supervision of a physical therapist, at least initially, because they could damage the Achilles tendon if they’re not done correctly:
Gentle calf stretching exercises can help stretch the muscles and aid recovery
There are a number of exercises you can do to stretch your Achilles tendon. Here are some of the most popular:
Calf Stretch: Place your hands on a wall with one leg straight and the heel to the ground. Place the other leg, with the knee bent, in front of the straight leg and push your hips toward the wall. Stretch your calf to the point where you feel a strong pull but no pain. Do not let your heels come off the ground. Hold the position for 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat 20 times on each foot in a slow controlled manner.
Sitting Heel Raises
Sit on a chair and raise your toes up as high as you can without pain. Slowly lower your heels. Do this 20 times a day. You can make it harder by pressing down on your thighs or holding a weight on your thighs.
Bilateral Heel Drop
Stand at the edge of a stair or a raised platform that is stable. Put the front part of each foot on the stair. This position allows your heel to move up and down without hitting the stair. Hold on to a railing or support to help your balance.
Slowly lift your heels off the ground and slowly lower your heels to the lowest point possible. Be sure to do this in a controlled manner 20 times. You can also do this starting on the floor rather than the stair.
Exercises to keep your calf muscles strong and flexible will help reduce the risk for tendinitis. Overusing a weak or tight Achilles tendon makes you more likely to develop tendinitis. As long as the leading risk factors (as diagnosed by a medical professional) are addressed, performing eccentric strengthening exercises is one of the best ways to ensure that a full recovery can be achieved.
Farmer’s Walk on Toes – watch video or follow instructions below
Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells and hold them at your sides at arm’s length. Raise your heels and walk forward (or in a circle) for 60 seconds. Be sure to stand as tall as you can and stick your chest out. Choose the heaviest pair of dumbbells that allows you to perform the exercise without breaking form for 60 seconds.
Single-Leg Standing Dumbbell
Grab a dumbbell in your right hand and stand on a step, block or 25-pound weight plate. Cross your left foot behind your right ankle and balance yourself on the ball of your right foot, with your right heel on the floor or hanging off a step. Put your left hand on something stable—a wall or weight rack, for instance. Lift your right heel as high as you can. Pause, then lower and repeat. Complete the prescribed number of reps with your right leg, then do the same number with your left (holding the dumbbell in your left hand).
Straight-Leg Calf Stretch
Stand about 2 feet in front of a wall in a staggered stance, right foot in front of your left. Place your hands on the wall and lean against it. Shift your weight to your back foot until you feel a stretch in your calf. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds on each side, then repeat twice for a total of three sets. Perform this routine daily, and up to three times a day.
Foam Roller – Calf Roll
Place a foam roller under your right ankle, with your right leg straight. Cross your left leg over your right ankle. Put your hands flat on the floor for support and keep your back naturally arched. Roll your body forward until the roller reaches the back of your right knee. Then roll back and forth. Repeat with the roller under your left calf. (If this is too hard, perform the movement with both legs on the roller.)
Foam rolling can be a great tool for recovery, but I would caution that it doesn’t always work immediately, especially with really tight calf muscles. It’s not unusual for tight muscles to take a few weeks to release as long as you’re consistently rolling.
Regular Prevention Program
1. Intelligently increase your distance and intensity – Many runners get impatient and make sudden increases in distance or time, especially if they’re falling behind with their scheduled training. Schedule your program then be disciplined enough to execute it. Very often tendonitis is caused by a sudden increase in load or force. If you do have a hard session(hills, intensity), no problem- but it’s very important that you choose to rest the next day or perform a low impact session the following day.
2. Introduce changes gradually. Be careful with hill sessions, change of running shoes or change of terrain.
If you go from road running to off road- or vis versa- the altered terrain can cause tweaks in the Achilles tendon.
If you feel tweak or a strain, revise your training immediately and do not try to push through. It is better to have one week off then to attempt to push thru, make the injury worse and require 2-3 months off of training due to injury. Also, if you get new running shoes, I recommend walking in them first and slowly increasing the distance and intensity for 7-10 days to allow your body to adjust & to break in the shoes.
3. Always complete a proper warm up and cool down. This includes after run/training stretches. Even though you may be pressed for time. It’s essential to stretch after your run. Just take 3-5 minutes to slowly stretch out your calf muscles, achilles, hamstrings, IT band and lower back. If you’re in the habit of performing these stretches, you’ll likely prevent recurring injuries.
4. Regularly perform foam rolling. Calf, quad and lower back muscles tend to get very tight. Sometimes stretching is not enough. I highly recommend foam rolling at least 2-3 times per week to prevent tight and knotted muscles. Rolling out the calf muscles will help prevent your Achilles tendons from getting get injured.
5. Regularly complete strength training. Especially the exercises listed above.
6. Get a sports massage – These can really help preventing injuries. Massages enhance flexibility, help to improve blood flow in muscles and tendons and a can help heal little tweaks in muscles and tendons quickly before they become problems. During marathon training, if you can afford one and have the time, it’s ideal to get a sports massage monthly.
7. Gait analysis – How you run is VERY important in the prevention and treatment of Achilles tendon pain. In most cases, runners with Achilles tendon pain have poor running mechanics. They over pronate, they have weak hip muscles and have very tight hamstrings and calf muscles.
Top Prevention Tip:
Get your gait analyzed – this is VERY important. I suffered for over a year with this injury before a sports therapist video taped me on a treadmill. He reviewed my gait in slow motion & confirmed that I was pronating. He also identified some issues with my stride. I had been running for 30 years and didn’t think I was a pronator, but it turned out that I had developed this condition which was ultimately affecting my achilles.
There’s a lot you can find out from a video analysis, I highly recommend this solution. You will be amazed at all the ways you can improve. For me, this was the best way to prevent injury and also dramatically improve your running speed.
Last year when I surveyed hundreds of runners who visit middleagemarathoner.com, to no surprise, I found that injuries were the biggest obstacle faced by middle age runners. Coach Greg McMillan is currently conducting his own survey and he shared with me that his initial results showed a similar finding.
The purpose of this article is to provide four different strategies to help you avoid injuries. These aren’t the only four strategies you should use and you may already be using a few of these strategies yourself, but hopefully I can share something new that you can try to further injury proof your body.
Background: For the longest time, I felt like I was a slave to nagging injuries. It was one of my biggest challenge that was preventing me from regularly racing 1/2 and full marathons. Being a busy professional, I simply didn’t have time to implement a comprehensive injury prevention routine. About 99%+ of the middle age runners whom I coach don’t have a lot of time either. However, it’s important for any runner to engage in some kind of program that involves some of the strategy that I discuss in this article.
Over the years, I worked with my primary physician, physical therapist, athletic trainers and running coaches in addition to completing a lot of my own research and trial/error to finally develop my own injury proofing regime. There’s not a “one size fits all” solution when it comes to middle age runners and injury avoidance.
Bottomline, I eventually “cracked the code” of injury-free running. Since 2012, I have been injury free.
Note, that I didn’t say I have been pain free. There’s a difference and it’s how you manage your pain that greatly contributes to remaining injury free. It’s remaining injury free that allows runners to build consistency and reach their goals.
Following are four of the strategies that I use in parallel to remain injury free.
1. 3 Too’s – I’ve read this from a few sources as the leading cause of running injuries.
a) Too much – mileage – depending on your base, athletic ability and running experience, running too much weekly mileage can lead to injuries.
b) Too soon – weekly increases should be limited to no more than 10% of the previous weeks’ total mileage. Increase your weekly and monthly running totals gradually.
c) Too much – change – although it’s important to vary your weekly workouts (discussed below), going from the couch to running every day and also completing heavy conditioning workouts will likely lead to injury. It’s important to gradually (over several months) increase the intensity of your training. Your body needs to be ready to increase mileage, run intervals or perform intense conditioning workouts.
2. Vary the intensity, mileage & route of your workouts. This is essential in my training plans. Changing pace, intensity and duration of runs will help ensure you improve. You can’t expect to improve if you run the same route at the same pace, day after day. Simply varying the routes or running surfaces is one of the best ways to spread out the various forces on your lower body so that no one tissue or tendon gets overworked.
3. Practice proactive recovery – along with the 3 too’s, you should regularly use a foam roller and an occasional ice bath. I also use the Recover App (which I reviewed & highly recommend in this post). I use compression socks to help me recover from both hard and long runs. However, to truly be proactive, you need to complete workouts at a level where your body is ready. This means scheduling workouts based on other workouts you will or have already completed that same week or in previous weeks. Coach Jay Johnson says, “keep the hard days hard and easy days easy.” I also recommend taking at least 1 day off (no exercise) per week.
4. Listen to your body – along with being proactive you need to also be reactive with your recovery. If something you’re doing is resulting in pain that forces you to alter your running form, I strongly recommend stopping that particular activity, identifying the root cause of the pain and seeking professional medical advice to eliminate the issue. If the rigors of training for a particular race like a full or half marathon become too painful, you may need to postpone the race or simply run a shorter race like a 5 or 10k.
BONUS: 5. Use a coach – A good running coach can provide you with a training plan that meets your athletic ability, goals and helps to prevent injury. Sometimes I adjust scheduled long runs, speed work and some of the scheduled high-intensity training. This allows more time to rid yourselft of the pain and get healthy so you can get back to your training.
If you’re not doing so already, implementing these strategies will make a big difference to your performances over time. Although each strategy isn’t a “cure-all.” If after working these strategies into your plan and you still are fighting the injury bug, then I would replace one of the days you run with a cross-fit/aerobic (eliptical, stationary bike or swimming) and conditioning workout. If after making this change you still continue to get hurt, then I would visit with a medical professional and if you’re not with one already, I would speak with a coach who can take a look at your training and suggest some alternative workouts that may help you train injury free.