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Continuing To Cycle With An Achilles Injury

by Dehan
(South Africa)

I have suffered an Achilles injury (hurts right where the tendon attaches to the heel) from ramping up my running speedwork very quickly.

Idiot, I know.

However, it does not hurt at all when I bike, and I've done some brutal sets without any pain. The morning after hurts a bit, but just in the morning when waking up.

I assume this is just due to some calf stiffness from my cycling endeavors the previous day.

Can I continue cycling if it does not hurt? Will I ruin my recovery process?

B.t.w I'm now doing all the recommended eccentric exercises with fingers crossed, the stretching itself has already helped. Thanks for your advice.

Intelligent Triathlon Training replies:
eccentric-exercises
If you're sure that the pain in your achilles has been caused by the running only, then cycling should be fine. Achilles injuries are very common in runners, much less so in cyclists.

Obviously it's always worth getting things like this checked out by an experienced sports physio to ensure there isn't a biomechanical issue that might cross over into cycling.

If your achilles pain is purely due to the increase in running speed, ie no mechanical issues, then it is likely that tight calves played a role in the original injury - hence why you are also getting some pain the day after a bike session.

So yes, keep up that mobilisation (foam roller/rolling pin on those calves!) and stretching work as well as the eccentric exercises. Also bear in mind that it's not just tightness in the calves that can have an effect - ensure your hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors aren't tight either.

Personally I did a lot of cycling when I had achilles problems, with no negative impact, except when I got tight hip flexors and glutes which then led to tight calves, and pulling on my achilles.

That's one of the beauties of triathlon, if you can't do one discipline you can often continue training well in the others, so look upon this as an opportunity to increase your bike and swim mileage whilst your achilles recovers.

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May 06, 2014
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18 weeks in
by: Dehan

Sorry to hear you are injured too. It has now been about 12 weeks without any running and 6 more with eccentric routine and foam rolling everything tight constantly. So yes 18 weeks of NO running. I can now cycle without any pain, and not any real repercussions the next morning. But I'm sure I'm not ready to run again since the pain when I physically touch the back of my heel honestly feels the same as before all my recovery attempts. Also, my eccentric dips have now escelated as per my physios guidance, to 20kg of added weight. So after a session like that, I have some pain in the morning, but it goes away after I'm a couple of weeks in, then increase weight again to add stress. Wish I could tell you more, but I've got about 6 weeks of prescribed eccentrics left and then my physio says 90% chance of recovery.

May 06, 2014
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Me too
by: Colum

I am curious how things went since the posting was a couple of months ago. I have the same issue with my tendon. I can bike and swim without any tendon problems but not run. I started having tendon issues mid Jan 2014, I eased back into running after a few weeks rest. Unfortunately, I tried to increase the mileage too quickly and it went again. This has happened 3 times so it has now been about 4 months and I don't feel I am close to healing yet. I am doing the calf stretches and trying to hold off from running but now the weather is getting good, it is hard not to run.

Feb 24, 2014
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by: Intelligent Triathlon Training

Hi Dehan,

Well, another 4 weeks would be 10 weeks in total. This is a fair bit of time but it depends on how bad your Achilles was in the first place as to whether this is enough time for it to have healed.

Most research that has found positive results from eccentric training has looked at a minimum period of 12 weeks. However the people studied were generally recruited with chronic (ie long-term) achilles problems.

Bear in mind that just as the damage has started before you feel any pain, the pain can have gone before the tendon is fully healed.

You can test it out a little either by doing a very (very) gentle, short jog. Remember it’s not just how it feels at the time but after, and particularly the day after.

Another good test is to do some double foot ankle hops – ie just jump up and down with limited knee bend – ie driving through your ankles, or even single foot.

Neither of those is equivalent to a 10K race, so even if your Achilles feels OK after those tests it might not survive the race intact. But at least you’d know it’s unlikely to flare up as soon as you start running.

Only you can decide if it is worth racing! If it is what you have been aiming for all year I can see why you want to race.

I guess it depends which is more important – this race or your longer-term prospects. It would be a shame to have waited that long and be nearly better only to put yourself right back. Also consider what 10 weeks of no running will do for your run performance in the race – are you likely to still get a good result?

On the other hand if your Achilles hasn’t been that bad, it might be a lot better by then and the race might not do too much damage.

There’s really no way of knowing other than by doing it!

Hope this helps you make up your mind - let us know how you get on!

Feb 23, 2014
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just one race
by: Anonymous

ME again, I've now been away from running for 6 weeks, only cycling and swimming. The race I've been training for, olympic dist. national champs, is in 4 weeks time. However, I have to confirm entry now. Is it a terrible idea to go ahead and race that one race only , trying to win it with a strong swim/bike and then start rehab again? I assume it will be better, but not gone by then. thanks for the great advice, I'm pretty desperate not to miss the thing my entire last year was dedicated to.

Feb 10, 2014
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Again, great answer
by: Dehan

That's why I sometime hate visiting a physio. He simply asks: Did you increase training speed or mileage? Yes. That's why you are injured. Does cycling hurt? No. Keep on doing it. What should you do now? Continue resting and stretching, which of course you already know. Your answer was way better and mroe informative, I greatly appreciate this.

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