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My Achilles heel and other challenges

It’s taken me a lot longer to write this blog post than it should have. The last post I wrote was very short with the expectation that I was going to explode into prose much more regularly. The reality is that I have spent every day from that day to this one thinking about how I try to fit all the different things that have happened to me in a sensible order. I’ve concluded that I can’t, so I’m just going to get started with a description of what’s going through my head at the moment, and I’m sure things will sort themselves out over time. They definitely won’t get sorted out if I don’t do any writing!  


A footpath with a "footpath ahead closed" sign in the foreground
No running here

My first big piece of news is that the running isn’t going very well. You can see from my activity log that I did manage to complete quite a bit of running, but it went from sporadic to too much too soon and that resulted in me hurting my left Achilles tendon on one of my runs, the next day just walking around hurt quite a lot. “Bugger”, I thought, “that’s going to get in the way”, I thought. And it did.

When you look at my activity log it is pretty obvious that the build-up to that first twinge was 2 x 5 km runs, then I jumped straight to 2 x 10km runs and then I hurt my ankle. I’ve written previously about listening to your body, but right at the start, here I go, not listening properly. It hurt, but it got better over a couple of days, so I didn’t think much of it. Then through the first half of February, I kick into gear and ran a set of 5 km, 8km, and 10km runs in close proximity. This is the sort of regular running I should be doing, but not so early, and not a week after I’ve hurt my Achilles. Inevitably my ankle got hurt again and I have had to find out how to fix it and stop it from happening again.

I resorted to various social media and the web and found a wealth of information. After sifting through the dross, I now understand the dynamics of what I’ve been doing. Amazingly, every action I take on this journey seems to prove another fact to me. You can’t just run, you need to think about things holistically and good running form is important, and it’s evident that I have not had that in my running before.

Here is a short overview of what I have found out about the most likely cause of Achilles strain in runners.

  1. As your foot is on the ground at the end of a stride, you may be pushing off from the ground to move your leg forward to take the next step. This action puts strain on the Achilles heel and is the cause of my strain.
  2. The correct action requires you to pull the leg forward from the hip, using the hip flexor muscles, instead of pushing from the foot. Imagine your foot is on a pin. You wouldn’t push down with your foot to take it off the pin as that would push your foot onto the pin. Instead, you would pull your foot up away from the pin using your hip muscles. This is the action you need to use. Lots of videos talk about “driving your knee forward” and this is what they mean.
  3. Now, this has a follow-on effect. If you are pulling your leg forward with your hip, this naturally creates an opposite action, unhelpfully using your lower back to balance the movement.
  4. The way to guard against lower back strain is to engage your core (stomach muscles) to take the load instead of your back.

The upshot of all that excellent research into body mechanics is that if I want to run properly and not hurt my Achilles, I really need to do more sit-ups!!

As proof of the pudding, I have started to “drive my knees forward” while walking and in the tentative short runs that I have done recently, surprise surprise, I could feel my lower back the next day!

So in conclusion to my running update, as with everything I am discovering. Good general fitness, flexibility and some relatively simple knowledge will ensure that I can run safely when I do gradually build up towards running again. I’m amazed I managed to run as far as I have in the past without knowing this stuff, and I will never force myself to get out and run without good preparation again. It’s as easy to do some general fitness as it is to do a short run (or whatever you plan to do), so please follow this advice in whatever sporting activity you do.

Slow and steady wins the race, at least in terms of preparation anyway.

Building strength in my Achilles

So what have I been doing to progress my challenge and manage my twinged Achilles? I have to say that I have been very lucky as I think I’ve just slightly strained my Achilles and not done it any lasting damage. But I have been very active in trying to manage the strain and strengthen the area in gradually increasing ways until I can get back to running on it.

I have been doing calf raises and stretching the back of my leg, raising myself onto my tiptoes and holding myself there, then slowly lowering back down. Starting with both legs at once, then rising on one and lowering on the other, and finally, the hardcore, raise and lower on just one leg. Following my “build it into your day” initiative, I’ve been doing this while waiting for the kettle to boil and at various other opportunistic times in the day. I’ve also been doing the same exercise on the stairs but with additional extension by dropping my heel below the step, and I do that each time I go upstairs. Over the last few weeks, I’ve progressed quite well and I’m now back to some pretty long walks without problems as my diary attests I have even put in a couple of short runs halfway through a walk and the ankle is holding up so far!

Does barefoot running cause calf pain? Achilles pain? Find the truth here… (

How To Fix Achilles Tendonitis – Excellent exercises and from barefoot pros

FIX Achilles Tendonitis In 8 Simple Moves

6-10 week rehabilitation Achilles tendon rupture – Extreme, but good exercises

Exercise and fitness

Looking on the positive side, not being able to run presents an opportunity to concentrate on other fitness, and everything I have read suggests I have a lot to do. I’m trying to take a holistic approach and, like the ankle work, I am just building sets of push-ups and sit-ups into my day when I can. The only thing I am doing as an organised session is yoga, but I think that will change and my rep count goes up.

I have discovered a guy called David Goggins who is an absolute machine. He trained from being quite overweight to join the Navy Seals in 90 days, and his routine is obscene. He now evangelises pushing yourself, and not giving up, 80% of the challenge is mental, and that your body always has more to give. I think his approach is admirable, but he is obviously at the extreme end of the fitness spectrum.

I have added a modified version of this to my own activity, and I strongly advise everyone to do the same. If I was to go out and beast myself now, I would seriously hurt my ankle. But I am applying his ethos in my own drastically reduced way. Where David would say that once you’ve done your 1000 push-up set, then you just have to wait to recover for a short while before you can squeeze more push-ups out, and you haven’t really done until you can’t lift yourself up again even once in a day. Last week I could only do about 7 push-ups in a go. In fitness attempts of the past, I have done 10 per day and given up after a week. I have also attempted doing a couple of sets one after the other. But, this time I am going to do 10 push-ups in the morning, then 10 while on a break, then at lunch, etc. If I can get into the habit of doing something whenever I get a chance. I think I can do a surprising number of various exercises in a day and they all count towards my fitness. As you can see from my [workout diary], I have created a table with running, walking, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and yoga. Whatever exercise I do, whether one at a time, a set of ten, or a full-on workout. More = better, and better = fitter and safer for running.


Now here is where things finally begin to get fun. Although I’ve still not properly announced this website or my challenge widely, I have been talking to people I meet about what I’m doing, and I have been convincing people to commit to challenges and activities with me. I now have a growing list on a new [challenges] page and these are going to spur me on as well as make my friends and acquaintances and eventually the wider community commit to all kinds of interesting things. So, if you read the challenge list and think one that’s already there sounds like your thing, just give it a go, and it’d be great if you let me know so you can be added to the hall of fame. Alternatively, throw me a challenge, and I might just say yes, and whether I join in or not, it can still go on the challenge page for all to see.


I feel like I am settling into the task I have set for myself now, and I think working through the Achilles’ trouble has actually added to my resolve. I’m continuing to push toward my goal via a totally different route than I expected. In some ways, I’m a bit behind, but I have discovered early some valuable lessons that I’d have needed to realise at some point anyway. Fail fast!

I still need to do lots of exercises to make sure that my Achilles is strong enough and that along with lots of general fitness work is something that is going to follow me through the next three and a half years.

a pathway through a woodland with coppiced trees on either side
The road ahead is clear, as long as I listen to my body

As ever, I’m doing all this to raise money, I’d be extremely grateful if you’d give me a donation

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