Rejoice! Another season of hiking and trail running is upon us. We’ve made it out of the rainy, winter doldrums and the wilderness calls for our return once again. But as we return to Mother Nature preparation is key. One of the most common injuries for trail runners and avid hikers are Achilles tendinopathies which are notoriously nagging, painful, and can significantly impact our enjoyment of recreation and exercise. The great news is that Achilles tendinopathies are easily preventable with proper preparation and condition. Try these simple activities to keep you moving all summer long!Öhberg L, Alfredson H, et al. Eccentric training in patients with chronic Achilles tendinosis: normalised tendon structure and decreased thickness at follow up. British journal of sports medicine. 38.1(2004): 8-11.
The calf is a vital shock absorber helping to stabilize and dynamically propel us forward over variable of terrain while hiking and trail running. Undue stress through the muscle due to weakness or tightness can lead to overuse damage to the achilles tendon. Research shows that eccentric strengthening – loading the muscle while it lengthens – can significantly reduce the risk of Achilles pain. Two to three times per day perform 3 sets of 15 repetitions of heel raises off a step with knees straight and knees bent. Increase the challenge by performing with only one leg.McMillian, Danny J., et al. Dynamic vs. static-stretching warm up: the effect on power and agility performance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 20.3(2006): 492-499.
Short duration, functional stretching – such as a dynamic warm-up – is a key component to preparing the body for physical activity. Research shows that dynamic warm-ups improve power and agility and reduces incidence of injury when compared to static stretching. A dynamic warm up also increases heart rate, challenges muscles throughout their entire range of motion, and improves coordination during functionally relevant movements. Try this series of 4c movements – 10 repetitions on each side before going running or hiking. Focus on remaining tall and balanced through all movements.The calf stretch is a tried and true method of improving ankle flexibility. Following a trail run or hike, stretching is a great activity to reduce post-workout soreness and prevent tightening of the Achilles tendon. With knee straight extend leg back until stretch is felt through the calf. Hold for 60 seconds, then move foot forward and bend knee, again holding for 60 seconds. Each stretch targets the primary musculature within the calf.