I had my final physical therapy session yesterday. I received two treatments per week, eight in total. While both the doctor and my physical therapist didn’t explicitly tell me to stop running, I dialed down both the number and intensity of physical activity over the past month. Part of that was a precaution – no use subjecting the achilles tendon to additional strain while it’s also getting treatment to hopefully improve it; but part was because I never felt too good about doing more, anyway. Some days the weather was crappy, other days I still had some lingering soreness in the areas around the achilles tendon. Most days, regardless of activity level, I felt tired and burned out; which means that despite my best intentions I did almost no cross training (weight training, indoor biking, etc.)
Overall, I think the achilles tendon is better now than it was a month ago. Unfortunately, it’s not perfect yet. I have an MRI lined up, but unfortunately the earliest I could get an appointment is two months from now. Which leaves me between a rock and a hard place: I could be cautious and stop most if not all running until the MRI (and lose a lot of fitness, which could lead to trouble down the line because then I’d need to be really careful when eventually ramping up my training from a standstill). Or I could throw caution to the wind, continue training with some lingering pain, and potentially either worsen the condition of the achilles tendon, get another partial tear (like in 2000), or worse. No matter which route I choose, two months from now I might look back and wish I’d chosen the other one: if I stop all training and then the MRI shows that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong I’ll be just as unhappy with having wasted two months than if I keep running and worsen the injury.
I suppose I could also just cut my losses, toss my running shoes, bury my ambitions, and adopt a sedentary lifestyle. Somehow, I don’t think I’d be happy with that.
So where do I go from here? I guess that for the remainder of the year and heading into 2015 I will try to maintain a reasonable volume of exercise. This should include both relaxed (long) runs to build my overall endurance and heart/lung capacity; but also high intensity sessions that better approximate the level of strain I’d have to endure during races or other challenging goals. At the same time, there’s definitely room for improvement in regular maintenance: strengthening my core muscles, working on my running form, doing preventive maintenance on hot spots (weak spots in muscles), etc.