9 month update

9 months ago on 24 Aug 2015 my right achilles snapped. It was a terrifying experience that left me doubting whether or not my exercise life would ever be the same. Thankfully our bodies are absolutely incredible and they heal in the most amazing way. So now, 9 months later, I barely ever worry about it and there is nothing that I can’t do because of the rupture. I hope this gives hope to anybody who is just starting the road to recovery from an achilles tear.

I last posted at my 6 month mark and at that point I was already feeling the exhilaration of exercising almost normally again. Over the last 3 months my strength has grown and I have built up my plyometrics (explosive movements like jumping and running). I had great plans that focused on building calf strength but I’m afraid I have actually been pretty slack with the calf raises since my other training is so much fun. I know this is bad and that I need to make sure that my right calf gets as strong as my left, so I need to correct this over the next 3 months (bring back the discipline!).

One thing I realised as I trained back to fitness is that my glute strength on my right leg was dismal. I think this is possibly something that we don’t focus on - we can physically see our tiny calf, but we can’t see our glutes. Glute strength is extremely important, so when you guys start exercising remember your glutes!

I have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly I have been regaining strength and fitness. My cardio vascular fitness came back first and very quickly - within a month I was getting back to handling fast paced workouts without running out of gas half way through. Strength has been slower, but it’s something that we measure at the gym so it has been wonderful to view my progress graphically and as you can see below, I’m pretty much exactly back to where I was pre-injury for both front and back squats and this took just over 3 months.

I am jumping, skipping, hopping and running without any problems.  I can run comfortably for 5km at an easy pace that is only a bit slower than my easy pace pre-injury.  When I run I can still feel the scar tissue.  It sort of feels like someone put a sticky plaster inside my leg.  I feel the skin or tissue sort of bunching up and sticking.  If I do calf raises then other people can see the adhesion that I’m feeling.  I’m not sure if it will ever go away.  It doesn’t hurt at all, it’s just noticeable.  I haven’t gone to anybody for scar tissue or adhesion release or massage since 6 months, so I don’t know if that would help.  I haven’t tried going for PB run times yet so I can’t comment on whether or not I can still run at the same pace I used to, but I can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be able to when the time comes … I will definitely update the blog with the results when I try it.

Like I said before, I haven’t been doing lots of calf raises to get the full calf strength back.  I still do 2×15 straight and 2×15 bent leg eccentric lowers over a step each morning on both legs just to make sure I’m always strengthening both tendons.  For my 9 month analysis I wanted to get an updated picture of my calf strength, so I’ve put together another side-by-side analysis.

As you can see, the right calf is still smaller than the left.  A big improvement is my bilateral calf raise where the right is almost as high as the left (previously it was 2-3cm lower).  My right side only calf raise is still about 3cm (1 inch) lower than the left side, so I definitely still need to work on it.

That’s it from me.  Good luck to everyone going through this, I wish you all the best and happy healing!

12 Responses to “9 month update”

  1. Excellent update and you are well on the way to a full recovery. I know the feeling you describe as you run and it could be scar tissue. If it is then it should release in time but you could see someone to help it along. My Physio concentrated on the glutes before I was back in shoes. It is the most important muscle for walking so a good reminder for all. Enjoy that balmy Autumn in Sydney. We have snow forecast for tomorrow so time to get the skis ready.

  2. Great to hear from you beanie. You are doing great.

    There is a limit to how much you can push ourselves. Otherwise we will end up re-injuring, so we just let to have the time do to the healing too!

    This gives me hope! Did you forget about the injury already? Do you still feel tightness or stiffness? Is the tightness/stiffness getting better?

    The scar tissue, if there is any, it doesn’t bother me, but my leg definitely doesn’t feel normal yet.

    Thanks for the tip about the strength, I will keep it in mind for the next 3 months, gotta keep working on that injured leg to even up!

    Like you, I also do squats and lunges, so that helps with the glutes. There are a lot of other muscles that we forget if we just pay attention to the calf, quads and hamstrings, etc too. Take care and please keep giving us updates, you are doing great!

  3. Thanks Stuart! It’s funny about the glutes because I thought that ankle range of motion was what was causing me difficulty getting depth in my squats. But as the months went on and my squats got increasingly easier and better and my ankle ROM stayed the same I realised that it was my glute strength that had been the problem all along! My glutes just weren’t strong enough to hold me in a good position coming out of the injury. As you say, glutes are important for walking and running so it’s really important to build them back and ensure you don’t start compensating with other muscles that could put strain on other areas - especially knees, hips and back. We’ve pretty much had summer in autumn over here so far, but it looks like winter has finally arrived today. Enjoy the snow and the skiing!!

  4. Hey s40love! I do forget about the injury all the time now. My awareness of it is more mental than anything else - in other words I never feel that the tendon is tight or sore but when I exercise I often purposefully think about it to make sure that I’m using the leg correctly and I’m not favouring it in any way. For example if we have skipping in a workout then while I’m jumping I’ll concentrate on pushing off with the right with the same amount of effort as the left, and often I swap and start doing alternating sets of 10 hops over the rope on each leg to make sure that the right is doing the work and matching how the left feels when it hops. Another example is pushing out from squats, not so much anymore but when I started I would notice on high fast paced rep sets that my left leg got more tired than the right which meant my right was being lazy because it wasn’t as strong, so I would concentrate all the time on pushing with the right to make sure it did the work. I do the same when I run, I’m always monitoring to make sure I’m using the calf and pushing with the toes and landing my foot the same way as the left.

    My achilles is no longer stiff or tight. I remember it used to be in the mornings when I woke up or if I’d been sitting for a while, but now I never notice it getting up. I haven’t had to ice for about 2 months now, it doesn’t get hot or swell anymore. That said, it is not as flexible as my left side, I still have a 4cm difference in flexibility between the two on the knee-to-wall measure (left = 18cm, right = 14cm). I don’t really notice this too much unless I stretch them, then I notice. I still do stretches and also ankle mobilisation but not every day, probably twice a week and because I know that I should not because I feel that my ankle is restricting me.

    If you do squats then an exercise I started doing at just over 6 months was single leg squats (or pistols - google them). These are tough because you have to squat on one leg below parallel. They are really excellent for building up glute, hamstring and quad strength in the leg (and also work your core). I was not able to do them unassisted on the right leg, so I put a band between two poles and then sat back into the band to help support me and push me out of the hole. You can use lighter and lighter bands as the leg strength improves. You can also hold onto trx handles or hold onto a pole instead of using the band. I think that doing pistols has improved my right leg strength the most - and they’re fun :)

    Good luck s40love! I can’t remember how many months you are along but I think it must be around 6 months or so? Every day things improve. The more you do the more all your muscles will come to the party. I’m sure by 9 months you will also barely be aware of the injury anymore.

  5. Always good to read your updates Beanie. You must be feeling great to be “near” normal…keep up the good fight!


  6. Beanie,

    Great progress, thanks. You’re a shining example of what can be done with hard work and proper rehab. I’ve closely followed you and Jayli. Interesting seeing similarities between people who follow generally the same protocols with their PT. Getting in the gym as much as possible is essential, as you clearly know.

    I see you have a slight difference in heel raise height still. I am at 4 months and when I do unilateral calf press (on the leg press), I can’t get that extra push and get really up on the toes like I can with my right. When did you notice this starting to even out more for you?

  7. I would love to try the pistol squats!!! I looked it up, you use only your body weight, looks challenging! Will try tomorrow cause my quads are so sore from yesterday’s leg workout… I am almost 6 months. I can do anything, but my problem is I am missing some of the calf strength and some of the explosiveness required in tennis. I don’t have the morning stiffness, but a general stiffness/soreness in the tendon.

    About the scar tissue, not an expert, but you might want to look into getting a massage to loosen it up. You said you don’t get any massages, so maybe that will help. Happy healing!!! Take care!!!

  8. Mibball that final push to get full extension has been frustratingly hard to achieve and I still don’t have it on a single leg raise. If you look back to my 20 week post (4.5 months) you’ll see a similar photo showing my calf raises. So it’s taken another 4.5 months to get this small amount of improvement in that final push. However I have not been focusing on building calf strength for the last 3 months so that may be why it’s going so slowly.

    The only tip I can give you is to try and make sure that you always get to full extension when you raise. This can be hard to gauge because if you’re like me then even when you go up on both legs your injured side won’t fully get up there. What I try to do is consciously really squeeze with all my might and try to push my toes and ball of my foot hard down into the ground. I always wait a second or two at the top of every raise or eccentric, squeezing hard. When I do single heel raises I push as far as it will go and then remove some body weight and make sure that I still push up to the top.

    You can do the same on the calf press using the machine - press with your injured leg as far as it will go, then use your uninjured leg to assist to get you to full extension, then remove the uninjured leg and try to hold for a couple of seconds with the injured side squeezing hard to keep the full extension and then slowly release. You may not be able to hold it at first or every time - don’t let this frustrate you because you are still getting the muscles to fire and to “know” the path to full extension so something good will be happening and eventually you’ll have that strength to hold the top position.

    Your blog shows that you are doing extremely well and are ahead of the curve in your recovery. I’m sure you’re going to be able to get your full calf strength back. Keep working at it and good luck! And let us know how you progress :)

  9. @beanie, reading through your blog makes me realise this is a long journey, well I did figure that when started to research. We all have different issues during our way but there’s no shortcut so….I’m at week 11 and still not allowed to start pushing a little but at the time being I’m working with all things I can. Thx for sharing

  10. Hi ChinaExpat, at 11 weeks you’re really almost there in terms of things getting back to normal again. Although it may take a while to get full strength back, this part of the process is actually quite a lot of fun and much like normal training for any sport. For me by 19 weeks things really took off and my recovery became more about getting fit again than about rehabbing the achilles. Many people experience this as early as 16 weeks and for others it takes a bit longer. But don’t be daunted and take courage in the fact that the hardest part is over now. Once you are allowed to start pushing it a little you will experience fairly rapid improvement. Good luck and take care!

  11. Thanks for the post, Beanie! I’m very happy for your “super-woman” normality! Just reading your post makes me realize I should be working out more! LOL
    I’ve continued improving, slowly now, but I admit I sometimes forget the injury… In the house I am wearing flat slippers, and this is helping me with the calf strength.

    Take care, and send us pictures of your gold medals! LOL

  12. hi you all ATR ex-comrades?

    how’s things going?

    just wanted to say hi as i’ve got a colleague who is just on the last stages of her ATR giving up the ghost…

    i’m still managing, almost at full potential but decided i won’t do any high impact stuff other than dancing for the rest of my life, the thought of rerupture is too scary for me

    i hope that the autumn and spring lights, respectively, shine upon you all


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