Achilles Heel

You see, the funny thing about that title is that maybe you were expecting an interesting retrospective on some weakness I have, or something I struggle with—but no, this is literally about issues with my achilles. Both of them actually. A new chapter on injuries from minimalist running.

I had been cruising along pretty good there for a minute—no pain beyond the usual wear-and-tear of running for months—but after being sick in May and taking almost two weeks off from running, I came back to it, taking it easy, and both my achilles had sharp pains in them. I had experienced this before, on and off, but I was able to just slow things down a little for the first mile and the pain would fade. Sure, the next day my achilles would be sore and stiff, but I wasn’t too concerned. Heading out mid-May was different. I handled the pain for each run, but the next day I was significantly more uncomfortable. And it didn’t fade even with time off.

So I did some research and narrowed it down to achilles tendinitis. I’ve been gently stretching and strengthening for the last three weeks, taking a total break from running. I should probably be icing it more regularly, but I’m feeling pretty good, so I think I’m on the right track. The plan is to take about 6 weeks off from running to let things settle down.

The challenge, I find, is that when I’m not running, how do I stay in shape? How do I blow off some steam or get outside to restore some sanity? It’s hard to find exercise that’s as efficient as running, but I think I found it via the Nike Training Club app. Clearly it’s designed for women, but I just up the weight a little and find that most 30-minute workouts totally kick my ass. The other benefit is that I’m strengthening my core and getting a more full-body workout, so I’m really enjoying it (as much as one can enjoy such a thing). It’s also a way I can keep my achilles mobile without straining it, and strengthen surrounding muscle groups.

There are three basic levels—Get Lean, Get Toned, Get Strong—and each level has several 15, 30, and 45 minute workouts. There’s good variety and each workout starts with a warm-up and finishes with stretching, so it’s well-rounded, too (there’s even yoga workouts…which I have yet to try). The other feature I’m considering trying out in my little sabbatical from running are the Programs. These are 4-week programs, tailored to desired intensity and focus (lean, toned, strong), which promise the desired results. Oh, and each workout is comprised of multiple short, intense exercises, which each have their own how-to steps and video. The video is really nice to be sure you’re following proper form and technique.


I’m so competitively driven, that the point rewards and levels that are built in definitely inspire me to get out there and put in the time. I don’t care so much about the Nike Fuel, but I’ll admit, getting that bigger number pushes me too. And of course, I do all these workouts in my Vibram 5-fingers to keep things minimalist.

I think it’s pretty cool that there’s an app out there that’s built well enough that I can basically get the workout and advice from a personal trainer, without having to go to a gym or pay someone. I’m sure it’s not as robust as paying a professional and getting “hands-on” feedback, but it’s enough to get me strong and keep me moving.