Achilles pain training errors: Not enough R&R
Updated: 6 days ago
Training Error Series:
Achilles pain training errors: Not enough R&R (this article)
Achilles pain training errors: Large increases in weekly mileage
Rest and recovery are important factors to consider as part of injury prevention and treatment and need to be factored into your weekly training programme. Research has shown that training error is the main cause of about 80% of the overuse injuries in runners, e.g. Achilles tendinopathy. You have to analyse your training and fix possible flaws, or you may find that your Achilles problem continues despite you doing all the right exercises and treatments. Remember, if you need more help with an Achilles injury, you're welcome to consult one of our team via video call.
The terms tendinitis, tendonitis, tendinosis, and tendinopathy mean the same thing for all practical purposes, and we use these interchangeably in our articles.
In this article:
Why do we need rest days?
When we run, we cause changes or adaptations in our bodies. Running gives an endurance stimulus to our body so it starts to adapt and get fitter to allow us to keep progressing and running further with more ease. These adaptations need time to occur.
When we run, we also put load through our joints, muscles, and tendons, one of which is our Achilles tendon. These also go through natural adaptations to allow us to take more load and do more exercise.
The Achilles tendon is made of collagen. To keep collagen healthy, our body is in a permanent cycle of laying down new, healthy collagen fibres and removing the waste products and parts that the body no longer needs.
When exercise is of a too high intensity or volume compared with how quickly this recovery cycle can lay down new healthy collagen fibres, we get out of balance, and that’s when pain or problems can occur. Rest days allow our Achilles tendons and the rest of our bodies to stay in balance and to adapt so that we become better and fitter in our chosen sport or activity.
Rest includes sleep
Sleep is probably the best recovery tool we have. It’s important to us physically and cognitively – there’s a reason why sleep deprivation has been used as a torture technique!
The recommended amount of sleep per night for a healthy adult is 7-9 hours, but athletes may need 9-10 hours. Both sleep extension (sleeping for longer periods at a time) and napping has been shown to lead to improvements in sporting performance.
What can I do to factor R&R into my week?
Our recovery load needs to equal our activity load. A good start can be to look at your training programme and schedule rest days pre and post high-intensity days.
Here are some evidence based sleep strategies if you struggle with sleep:
Training more means you need to sleep more, therefore changing your bedtime needs to be a factor.
Daytime napping, even just 20-30 minutes, reduces the effects of sleep deprivation.
Maybe changing the time of day you train, e.g. late night training or early morning training could mean you go to bed earlier or get up later.
A regular sleep routine is important, e.g. a regular bedtime or wake up time.
Limit lie-ins on a day off to within an hour of normal wake up time.
Sleep hygiene is important if you struggle with sleeping. Think about avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine in the hours before going to bed.
Wind down more by getting less blue light from devices or doing fewer stimulating activities in the hour before bedtime.
Learn coping strategies for anxiety and worry, which can affect sleep, e.g. relaxation or guided imagery techniques.
Create a comfortable bedroom environment that is cool, dark, and quiet. Using ear plugs or an eye mask may also help.
When designing or tweaking training programmes, I always take into account my patients’ weekly mileage, symptoms (including how they respond over 24 hours), exercise intensity, other weekly activities that they have to do, e.g. work and childcare, as well as the periods they allow for recovery. All of this combined allows me to design a tailor made programme that keeps them training while also rehabilitating their Achilles problem.
How we can help
Need more help with your Achilles injury? You’re welcome to consult one of the team at TMA online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.
We're all UK Chartered Physiotherapists with Master’s Degrees related to Sports & Exercise Medicine. But at Treat My Achilles we don't just value qualifications; all of us also have a wealth of experience working with athletes across a broad variety of sports, ranging from recreationally active people to professional athletes. You can meet the team here.
About the Author:
Alison Gould is a chartered physiotherapist and holds an MSc in Sports and Exercise Medicine. You can follow her on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Bird, Stephen. (2013). Sleep, Recovery, and Athletic Performance: A Brief Review and Recommendations. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 35. 43-47.
Bonnar, Daniel, et al. "Sleep interventions designed to improve athletic performance and recovery: a systematic review of current approaches." Sports Medicine 48.3 (2018): 683-703.