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Ask an Exercise Physiologist: sore Achilles tendons and missing strength

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Ask an Exercise Physiologist is here to help with all your health and wellness questions and challenges: Lifestyle. Wellness. Pain. Health.

Do you have a health and wellness question?

Now is your chance. Every week we will pick a bunch of questions, and help you solve your burning queries. If we share our problems, we are more likely to solve them.

Let’s get started.

“Whenever I walk for over 30 minutes my Achilles tendons on both heels get sore. The pain goes away soon afterwards though. This has been happening for over six months now, despite walking 4-5 times per week and stretching.”

– Heather, 50

Hi Heather,

Have you had the pain diagnosed by a professional yet? A diagnosis allows you to have a management plan and manage your expectations for recovery.

Is the pain at the insertion of the Achilles tendon? Where you can pinpoint the spot? Or is the pain more generalised and deep into the back of the heel?

A professional will be able to put you on the right path—whether you need a short term off-loading recovery phase or strengthening exercises.

Have you tried Heel Cups before? The heel cups act as a shock absorber; and are very affordable. They will help manage your pain, keep you active, and get you through your regular walking program, however, it’s essential to find out WHY the pain is happening.

Short-term strapping could help you too. You may need to have a walking gait assessment done. Being at a healthy weight also off-loads your tendons. Have you considered warming up your Achilles before your walk (heat pack, warm shower, massage, wearing warm socks)?

Maybe new shoes? Athletes Foot do a gait assessment, which will then profile what type of shoe fits your foot.

Managing Achillies pain is all about managing the load, and being smart about a progressive overload on your body.

“I have had no strength in my knees for at least 20 years. When I get down on the floor I have to pull myself up on furniture. The level of strength hasn’t changed in that time.”

– Janne, 70

Hi Janne,

Good on you for wanting to get stronger.

Is there a need to get down on the floor regularly?  I’m only 40, and I struggle to get up off the floor at times! All jokes aside, it sounds like we need to not only work on your knee strength but also your abdominal strength-endurance. Getting up off the floor is more of a CORE ACTIVATION movement (as well as lower limbs too!).

If you struggle to exercise due to confidence-weakness, have you tried deep water running/walking in your local pool, a swimming or specific home strengthening program?

Focusing on single leg lower limb strength, balance strength, quad and hamstring firing strength, core and general strength and conditioning. The fitter you are leading into your 80s, the better the outcome.

At Capital Hydrotherapy we have specific knee and hip control classes, and Hydrolates classes (Aquatic Pilates)—here’s our new timetable.

When you hit your 70s and want to improve your lower limb strength, it’s recommended to do your specific exercises at least six times a week.

I sometimes recommend to my patients to do their exercise program broken up into segments, 2-3 times a day—that’s if doing a full program all at once is too much. It depends on YOUR current strength, what your functional goals are, and how you recover.

“Hey Kirra. I see you have young kids. I have three under five and really struggling to find time to exercise when I work full time. How do you manage? My abs need a program, but I’m so time-poor! Any tips would be great.”

– Christine, 34

Ohhh Mumma—I feel your pain. I’m going to take off my Exercise Physiologist hat, and give you a big virtual mum-to-mum hug.

Don’t beat yourself up; having three kids under five is epic. And no wonder you have no abdominal strength. I’ve only just re-learnt how to sit up properly too!

Firstly, drop your expectations, and give those kids a hug. They don’t care about your abs. But, I do understand your concern.

Do you have much of a separation gap? Maybe you need to consult a women’s health specialist to ensure a management plan is in place?

I think your question was more about creating time, than about your gap though! This is how I manage:

1) I have a big whiteboard, with a weekly and daily plan on it. Every day I ensure I cross off some form of workout (yoga, Pilates, online 20 min smash-fest, run, hike).
2) If I have a morning workout planned, I have my gear ready the night before—or I’m doomed!
3) I only schedule three mornings a week, or I get too exhausted.
4) I schedule a rest week every month, where I don’t have an alarm, I have no expectation of a scheduled workout and I drop back my intensity.
5) I tell my husband and family about how the workout makes me feel after, so I’m reminded it’s worth the effort.

Truthfully, I don’t think it’s going to get easier for us over the next couple of years. So, we might as well start looking after ourselves now!

Here’s one of my favourite post-natal core and pelvic floor programs (now that I’m one year post-birth), which will challenge your poor abdominal strength:

1) Plank with one arm weighted row
2) Lunge and twist with 2sec pelvic floor pulse
3) Scooter with pelvic floor flick
4) Crunch in tabletop with PF Ladder
5) 4 point kneeling hip extension to abduction

You can print the PDF here, and I’ve made a little two-minute IGTV clip for you, which is dropping into Instagram later today.

Great questions. I’ll answer more next week!

Welcome to fill out our google doc form, or email us your health and wellbeing questions, to either: editor@hercanberra.com.au or kirra@capitalhydrotherapy.com.au

We are all better together!

Want to ask your own question?

Fill out our Google Form, or email us your health and wellbeing questions, to either: editor@hercanberra.com.au or kirra@capitalhydrotherapy.com.au.

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