For 2019, I had a pretty big goal – to run the NYC marathon. It was beginning to warm up for summer, and the weather was finally nice enough to start running outside and train for November. Unfortunately, that day never came. Instead, I spent 8 weeks in a boot because I had the bright idea to play 1-on-1 with a man 6 years younger than me and almost 100 lbs. heavier. That left me with a partially ruptured Achilles tendon and a fairly uncomfortable summer ahead.
When I told my bosses and co-workers I wasn’t going to the doctor, or the ER, they told me I was stupid. When I let people know I was going to heal myself, I was told I was crazy. But here’s the thing, not only do I have extensive knowledge of the human muscular system, but I also shrunk a tumor my doctor said could only grow larger.
At this point, I am my own doctor.
It’s also important to note – more times than not, a partial Achilles rupture doesn’t require surgery, just immobilization and physical therapy.
So how did I heal my achilles tendon 25% faster than most people and get back to my regular fitness regimen? Keep reading!
- Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition
The #1 thing I will always go back to when someone has a issue in their body is nutrition. What you put in your body becomes you. And when you know what you need to help you heal, you eat more of that! With the Achilles tendon, there isn’t a lot of blood flow to the area so it has a very long recovery period. A lack of blood flow means a lack of nutrients, which leads to a longer healing time. Now the inverse of that is true also, so I ate more things to help me heal faster. I focused on anti-inflammatory foods and had only plants for most of my meals. This helped mostly with pain and swelling, since inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. I ate a lot of bell peppers also to help with collagen synthesis, because that’s what tendons are comprised of, and I took in a lot of protein from wild rice and other plant sources.
I also ate A LOT more, which was great! I didn’t learn this until about 2 weeks into my injury, but your body burns anywhere from 15-50% more calories when recovering from injury, depending on its severity. In the beginning, I was extra tired and hungry, but I was cautious because I didn’t want to gain fat while I couldn’t workout. Then I learned I should actually be eating more, and I allowed myself to indulge while also maintaining my body fat percentage.
2. I Strategically Supplemented
Tendons and ligaments are both made of collagenous fibers, so my primary focus was to increase both my collagen intake and synthesis. I take collagen everyday for my knee (I have no meniscus) so I doubled my dosage after my injury and coupled it with L-lysine. L-lysine helps collagen formation but needs adequate vitamin C to perform the task (hence the peppers). I also took ginger every morning to fight inflammation, in addition to my regular moringa and greens supplements. Aside from being strict about what I was eating, this was the second most beneficial aspect of my healing.
3. I Stretched & Bathed, A LOT
My Achilles essentially ruptured because my calves were tight. The Achilles tendon inserts into the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, and the analogy I always use with clients is that the muscles of the body are tantamount to a giant system of rubber bands. When one rubber band is tight, it pulls on the rest of them, and if one is tight enough, it pops. I knew for a while my calves were tight and I needed to foam roll them and stretch them out, but I’m just as human as other gym-goers and I ignored it. Lesson learned.
When I got hurt, I couldn’t stand in the shower, so I started bathing every morning – regardless of the time I didn’t have to do so. I also tried to keep my water hot, to increase blood flow nutrient availability to my ankle. Then I would dorsiflex (flex my ankle upward) as far as possible. Now, my injured ankle has more flexibility than my healthy one.
Now when people at the gym see me without my scooter or boot, they ask me how I healed so quickly. At 6 weeks post injury, I was walking without my boot. At 8 weeks, I was lifting legs again, and now at 11 weeks, I’m 85% healed and able to jump. This has been an extremely awesome learning experience for me because it’s helped me build confidence in my ability to help myself and others, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without what I have learned from each of my clients this past year. I’ve almost gotten enough courage now to call up KD to help him get back on the court.