I have been active most of my life, and have been consistently exercising for almost 25 years. During that time I continually research and learn. One aspect of exercising has been clear to me for a long time – the importance of lengthening and stretching your muscles. On April 17, 2014, I personally experienced the result of taking this important factor of exercising for granted, and not spending enough time warming up the muscles pre-exercising and regularly practicing stretching (and yoga).
A little over six months ago I started body building/weight training, a departure for me of over 20 years of mostly cardio. The benefits to weight training are easily researched – strengthens bones, builds muscle to lessen chance of injury, burns calories, body composition, etc. I was performing deadlifts (PR=335lbs), squats, shrugs, presses, etc., all with the intention of gaining some muscle mass and strength. On 04/17/2014 I was in a training session for some core/cardio. I was on my third set of jumping rope, when I felt nothing short of being hit on the back of the lower right leg with a baseball bat or rock or something. I went down and looked up at my trainer and asked him what I hit. The answer was nothing, and then I knew something was wrong. It was fairly obvious it was the Achilles I ruptured.
As I write this blog entry I am one day removed from surgery, with 12 weeks of crutches and 8-12 weeks of a walking air boot in my future. What I wanted to know was the “why” – what seems like an innocent exercise of jumping rope to cause an Achilles rupture. I’ve run 5K’s, done a Spartan Sprint, climbed Mt. Katahdin in Maine, weight training – no injuries. A side note – a few years ago I blew out my right calf muscles stepping off a picnic bench.
Figuring out the “why” was looked at from several angles. My cousin mentioned to me he thought is was the heavy deadlifts that weakened the Achilles which started me on my quest for an answer. I thought I was strengthening the Achilles with my deads and squats so in my mind I didn’t think my cousin was correct. Maybe it was just a freak accident, and the jumping rope caused the injury. But something in the thought process was missing, and then I put the pieces together to figure out the why. Although I know all about warming up and stretching and their benefits (flexibility, lengthening), in hindsight I neglected those on a regular basis and took shortcuts, blaming time as the major factor. A couple of minutes warming up, a few minutes of stretching afterwards – not enough.
My answer to the why – a combination. With the weight training I was performing, I was strengthening the muscles. But with the lack of warming up and stretching the muscles, I was not lengthening the muscles back out from the weight training, thus slightly decreasing my range of motion. So in the act of jump roping, I was continually stretching the Achilles, and since I had been strengthening them over the past several months without stretching them back out, like an elastic band I was asking the Achilles to stretch but they ran out of room and BOOM!! – complete rupture.
This is my personal experience, and from my research I will live and learn. As I progress through physical therapy, I will add stretching probably as a daily morning routine. I will spend no less than 10 minutes warming up before any exercise routine and will spend time post workout stretching. I also plan to add Yoga and Pilates to my overall approach. I won’t sit here and pull out the age card (I’m 54) although I know it’s a factor. In my case, this injury wasn’t from pushing too hard for my age, but was simply a procedural error overall.
My advice to all is to never neglect warming up and stretching.