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Building a Bulletproof Achilles by coach Dan

I’m so thrilled to be writing my first article as a Best Athletics coach, hopefully the first of many! The response from everyone to me getting my coaching career off the start line has been incredibly kind and I feel very humbled, and it rounds off what has been a pretty surreal first year with Best Athletics.

The people are what make this club. The vibe we have as a group is pretty remarkable (except when perhaps when someone is crying about forgetting their Vaporflys), and we all look out for each other as friends and athletes. The club is full of leaders who don’t necessarily need the badge of a coach over them to help bring others up. We all look out for each other, and that is what makes this group so special. That’s why, when injury strikes, it’s always so difficult to see one of your teammates have to take some time out on the sidelines.

Which brings me onto the topic of this article.

I was lucky enough to be invited along to a talk at the Running Room in Battersea on Thursday 16th, hosted by our very good friend Adrian D’Costa. The theme of the session focused on understanding and recognising common injuries within runners with short lectures from three clinical experts and we want to share some of that knowledge with you all. Over the next few months, we’re going to be looking to provide more educational resources on common running topics to help you to get the most out of your running.

One of those guests at The Running Room was the legendary Dr Benoy Matthews, an advanced NHS and Private physiotherapist who specialises in hip, groin and running related injuries. His talk on the importance of Plyometrics in the Rehab of the Achilles Tendon gave a fantastic general oversight of the common causes of Achilles tendon injuries, and how they can be prevented.

Achilles tendon (AT) injuries are the second most common injury within runners behind knee related injuries. 80% of injuries occur in males, commonly within the 30-35 age bracket. They affect one in ten recreational runners, one in three of the sedentary population and one in two elite long distance athletes.

There are a huge range of variables that may cause an AT injury, but generally it is a combination of too much, too soon, too fast. Examples include sudden increases in volume, speed or intensity all at once, a change in shoe drop, or running on softer surfaces such as grass or sand. If you are experiencing pain in your AT, ask yourself, have you changed any of the above in the last 3-6 months?

Thankfully, Dr Matthews has an answer for us when it comes to building a bulletproof AT - strength and plyometrics. As runners, we’re often quick to dismiss strength training or weight-lifting as something for bodybuilders, rugby players or love islanders! When we get faster as runners, we’re increasing our cadence, strength and power output. Our muscles, tendons and ligaments all need help to adapt to the extra cadence and load. Strength and plyometric training give our body the best opportunity of doing so whilst helping to minimise the risk of injury.

Now this doesn’t mean we need to be in the gym 5 x a week and sleeping with our protein shakers. Ideally, one lower body strength session (squats, lunges, romanian deadlifts, calf raises etc.) per week combined with one plyometric session (box jumps, standing single leg hops, skipping) alongside our running training would have significant benefits for our training and lower the risk of injury. At Best Athletics, we recommend our athletes try and add this in after one of their harder sessions to keep the hard days hard and the easy days easy!

And if you don’t have access to a gym, or the time available to squeeze in two extra gym sessions a week, Dr Matthews recommended something as simple as skipping for 5/10 minutes before your runs a couple of times a week is enough to give your Achilles the support it needs.

You can find out more about Dr Matthews, his latest talks and other resources by hopping, skipping or jumping over to @function2fitness on Twitter and Instagram.

For more information on services provided by The Running Room and Adrian D’Costa in Battersea, head over to @therunningroom and @itsmyphysioadrian on Twitter and Instagram.

Until next time,

Onwards and Upwards!

Coach Dan

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