The Achilles of running

I got an earful from my massage therapist last week. He is treating me for some hip and glute (read: ass) weakness that is making my running difficult. The wrong muscles get weak because the right muscles aren’t working properly. Then when I run longer distances I tire more easily and fall apart.

No one runs longer distances without some fatigue and discomfort, obviously. I just mean that my discomfort is enough that it starts to cascade down my body and other parts are then also in pain. I gave birth to both of my kids naturally; I know what pain is.


I got an earful because I haven’t been listening to his advice, or to my body. Apart from the weak muscles, my Achilles tendon hurts a little when I run. This started almost 2 weeks ago. I figure running with some discomfort is okay. Heck, it’s nothing like the burning sensation I get some days when my IT bands flare up. But pain is a warning that something is not right. It is an early prevention system: if we listen to it we can avoid further potential catastrophes.

My Achilles is sore, but so is my heel. This is where a mass of tendons connect to your foot and these tendons can get inflamed. A nasty condition called plantar fasciitis can develop and you can sometimes look at many months without any kind of exercise. Never mind running, but walking and life in general can be excruciating. I may have this in very early stages, but I am running on it like I just don’t care.

I was supposed to run thirty minutes, very slow and easy. I was allowed to do this once I was walking without pain and then could walk/jog intervals without pain. I got to that point, in my mind. Since my run felt pretty good and the pain was definitely manageable I ran 50 minutes. I would have liked to run for 2 hours, but that’s definitely not allowed. Even I get that.

But the extra twenty minutes I tacked on meant twenty more minutes of exercise when my body should have rested and been allowed to heal. Runners are mostly Type A personalities; what did anyone expect? that I was going to follow instructions?


So I got an earful and some stern looks and then the confirmation that I would probably just do what I wanted to. But hearing his advice and warnings did worry me. Who wants to be in pain and prevented from doing what they love because of stupidity? I know it happens all the time; it’s called an overuse injury.

I have hired a coach this year for some more personal attention to my training. He understood my injury. My workout plan even had a 30 minute max run scheduled. But even with two knowledgeable people telling me what to do, I overdid it.


My view of the tape job.

Your view of the tape job.

Your view of the tape job.

So after a massage and some more reminders and a good tape job, I am limping home with my head down. I thought I had done a good job this week of taking things easy and doing less. I had, but I had not done enough “less.”

My achilles of running is actually my Achilles. But it’s also the fact that I have to do less to be able to do more.


53 thoughts on “The Achilles of running

  1. Your patience with your injuries is commendable…and wise. I feel for you on the sidelines wishing you were running alongside. Soon. And yes, your skill with a cowbell is second to none!

  2. Thanks for this post, Tania. Do less to be able to do more – it’s a tough mental adjustment, I know. Just keep thinking how awesome it will be to run without pain! I’m coming up on a month of only XT and strength work too… was super frustrating to start but walk/ran 30 min completely pain free today! My form has improved dramatically and I feel stronger than before. I know patience will pay off for you too. Soon! Looking forward to getting back out there with you.

    • Great to hear! You are ahead of me by the sounds of it. I’m still just starting on form, and getting into strength work. Last few weeks were all making sure I could execute the strength exercises correctly.
      You were amazing before; so exciting to hear how much better (easier) things will be with all these changes.

  3. Overuse injuries can be so frustrating. I do lots of different types of workouts to avoid too much repetition, but they can still occur. And I know runners have to be extra careful. Hope it heals up for you okay.

    • Thanks Carrie. Overuse is kinda like a crash course in stupidity. You just assume and trust that you are fine because you can keep going. But you know that things hurt and you are tired and it’s hard. You keep going and then the injuries poke up and you are forced to make changes, often drastic.

      • I run about 4x a week. I do strength training, bootcamp and swim as well. There is enough variety, I just think sometimes I do too much in general and my body gets tired. Then the weaknesses come out.

      • Well, at least you’re shaking things up. It’s funny how our bodies try to tell us things if we’ll only just stop and listen. I like to work out every day, but some days when that alarm clock goes off, my body says, “Hey you! Take the day off why don’t you? You’re not as young as you used to be.” Okay, maybe I’m paraphrasing a bit, but the gist is the same. 🙂

  4. Hey Tania,
    I used to run a lot but I pushed too hard and injured too often. So I converted to rowing. Good for you for paying attention and teaching yourself to run smart.
    I do miss the solitude and thinking time I had when I ran…

  5. We are all so stubborn, aren’t we? I really, really try to listen to those little whispers of aches and pains before they turn into injuries, but sometimes I ignore common sense — and it always turns out badly. I did it this past week by pushing too hard on my first week back after being sick. Stupid rookie mistake, and I should have known better. Hope your achilles and heel pain get better with the tape!

    • Tape helps certainly. But so does the traditional ice, stretch, and rest.
      Also the physio, chiro and massage therapists who have been working on me seem to be doing good work. Many hands mean I’ll be running pain-free sooner.
      Hope you are feeling better. It’s hard to hold back when you know how great a good long/hard/fast run can feel.

    • I had both kids naturally and at home. My son (our second kid) was almost 10 pounds!

      When I see now how much care you get in the hospital after birth I may have changed my mind. But hospitals scare me, in general.

      Thanks for your restful encouragement!

  6. When I had plantar fasciitis I switched to swimming while it healed. That was great, but I got a sore shoulder from bad swimming technique. I returned to running and later got into weight lifting, which resulted in a sore elbow (when I overdid it). I think you’re right on about early warning signals. I needed hard knocks to learn to listen better and vary my activities more. Cross training is awesome! Bicycling, swimming……..

    • Frank,
      Thanks for your bumpy road of examples of over-training! I do a fair amount of XT but I think it’s partially that I don’t get enough rest. Plus, I took a wild gamble and did a 13 mile run without my orthotics. I have worn them religiously for the past 4 years and suddenly figured I’d switch things up a little. Well, I now know what a ‘switch’ feels like. It hurts! and not in a good way.

  7. It’s so tough to know when it’s okay to push a little and when to hold back sometimes, isn’t it? I’ve only been running a few months and though you would think it’d be easy to tell the feel of an injury from a body just adjusting to a form of exercise that’s tough on it it’s not easy at all!! Sometimes I think I’ve injured myself and so I rest a few days and then I’m back at it; usually I feel better after running than I did resting… but is it because I was never injured or only needed a few days’ rest?

    Wish we could run with whatever our hearts could handle, and our bodies could just learn to keep up!

    • Totally good points! I think we often also want to keep going because we enjoy it and know it’s ‘good’ for us. How good is subject to the same sort of scrutiny as how much pain we are in as we are running.
      Often we run faster after a few days rest because our body has caught up to us and is finally healed and ready to take on more stress/exercise.
      Love your last sentence: “Wish we could run with whatever our hearts could handle, and our bodies could just learn to keep up!” I hired a coach to tell me when is enough, and when I need to work harder.

  8. I feel your pain, no pun. Every Wednesday I attend an adult ballet class. The ages in the class range from 25 to 65. Those of us who are over 40, spend the the first 5 minutes in the ‘locker room’ wrapping, taping, Icy Hot-ing our bodies before we head into the studio for barre warm up. While doing barre, we moan and groan as we are reminded of old and new injuries. For me, it was my knees that started to show their age. I learned from a sports medicine specialist that my hipflexors are weak so now I make it a point to do my hipflexor exercises after each workout and I tell you what… I have almost no knee pain.

    Listen to your body because you only have one and you cannot trade it in for an upgrade. As much as I admire you long distance runners, your bodies take quite the beating!


    • Age certainly catches up to us fast when doing something more strenuous. Our bodies just can’t handle the same kind of punishment as they used to.
      Longer distance running does give your body a beating, but the idea is that you condition it to be able to handle this. So now as I am resigned to shorter and slower runs I so appreciate what (hopefully soon) I’ll be able to go back out to do.

  9. I don’t want to alarm you, but I think maybe you stepped on a very leaky Smurf. Again, I’m not trying to frighten you, but just be aware that leaky Smurfs can infect their hosts. Your blue line patterns are classic indicators of Leaky Smurf Syndrome. Now that I’ve finished, be very alarmed.

    • I am alarmed. It is only your calm doctor-like demeanor and cool Gravatar presence that stops me from FREAKING OUT RIGHT NOW as I sit in my cubicle.

      I hope some good comes out of this involuntary symbiosis.

      • No, no. You’re absolutely doomed. There’s no question about that. You should absolutely freak out. In fact, that’s a healthy response to something so terrifying. In the meantime, keep an eye out for symptoms of a worsening case:
        1. Everything in the world looks blue.
        2. The color blue itself looks polka-dotted.
        3. You feel the need to go Smurfing anywhere from one to Smurf times per Smurf.

        If these symptoms occur, please call me. However, I’ll be screening my calls because I don’t want to catch a case of Leaky Smurf. Yuck!

      • Sound advice. I wondered what that bluish haze I see on the periphery of my vision was.
        I don’t like talking on the phone, so I probably wouldn’t call anyway.

  10. Have you tried minimalist or barefoot running? My ex-boyfriend has a bum knee, and was told never to run again. He runs barefoot without incident. I’ve heard a lot of conflicting arguments on this, but wondered if you had come across it.

    • I haven’t tried the minimalist approach. With all change, the point is to do it gradually over time. Barefoot running goes through phases of popularity and it really does work for some.
      My issue is that I went cold turkey and did a longer run (13 miles) without my orthotics. There was too much change on top of the fatigue in a longer run and the result was a bum Achilles. I had a great physio session today and I’m feeling way better now. Progress!

  11. Have you ever heard of or dealt with Osgood-shlaughter (syndrome?) I don’t know exactly wtf it’s called or how it’s spelled, but I used to get it when I played Soccer and it hurt like a motherforker.

    You brought back some good memories just now of not being able to walk for two days straight.

  12. Have you ever considered a running technique clinic…. Which really mean very little running and a lot of basic posture work. Check out mindful strides.

  13. Love the tape Tania, and the last line too 😉 . Why is it always so difficult to do less in order to do more? It’s so freakin’ hard!!!! I was talking about this tonight with a friend – running is a whole body experience. It can’t just be about the running. It has to be about the entire body. The form, the muscles, the abs, the flexibility, the rest, the arms, the back muscles, and so much more. I’ve been running for 12 years and I think I’m finally starting to realize this. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve been injured. I just get so obsessed with running, that I forget (or neglect) the other parts of my body. I get that now so I make a point to strength train twice a week. I can’t strength train like I would if I weren’t running because I just don’t have the time, but I still make a point to do it. And because I know my left hip is always out of whack, I focus on yoga almost every day. I really feel for you and your injury. i’ve literally been depressed because of the same situation but it’s all a learning experience. 😉 Get well soon and I’m sending many happy running thoughts your way!!!

    • Hi Tracie,
      I have been thinking about what you said, and how running is so challenging. (would we do it if it were easy?) It definitely is a whole body experience and a commitment. So much of my time is spent running or strength training or planning workouts or x-training or thinking about running. I enjoy my time doing everything, but scheduling it all so that it can happen is certainly a challenge. And I know that I need to make the time for things that are a priority in my life/style, but also that doing more will not make my running or my life more productive. I am so appreciating having a coach who says: run this long, take this day off. I don’t have to guess and I just do what I am told.
      Being patient is what will help — with injuries and with improvements. Having an injury is a huge lesson in patience and a reminder not to take what I am capable of for granted. It’s so easy to forget this when I want to run more/longer/faster, but when I can’t run — it’s a very different perspective.
      Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Hi Stephanie,
      Thanks for your comments.
      The PT and the physiotherapist, chiropractor and massage therapist have all been great. I feel like it’s a second job running around (no pun intended) going to see all these people to hep me get better. I’ve had a few friends with the very same injury who continued to do longer distances and harder runs as the injury “healed” and now still have dull aches and minor flare-ups. Fingers crossed, I want to avoid that!

  14. Pingback: Sleeping my way to success « iRuniBreathe

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