Category Archives: Fitness

Finished the 2013 Great South Run

20x30-SSSO2909 On a day of interesting weather conditions, I’m happy to have completed my second Great South Run.

A few months ago, I really doubted this was going to happen: I was still struggling with a stubborn achilles injury which meant I did not want to do any form of training, let alone step out and run ten miles. In short, in no way was I enjoying running, and even walking around was reminding me of how annoying the injury was. Thankfully, I managed to sort this out.

I was back to being able to train in August, combining it with my refereeing. I only made the decision to enter the Great South Run a few weeks before, and I know I went into it not being as fit as I was the previous year, but fully confident I would do okay. And I did! I finished with an official chip time of 1:29:10, compared to 1:24:18 the previous year. The slower time was to be expected, especially considering the strong gusts on the final two miles which really slowed me down. I got lucky in 2012 as the wind was non-existent along that straight!

Due to the achilles comeback, I used traditional running shoes (a worn-in pair of Saucony Progrid Omni 9s). It was solid throughout and afterwards. As a result, I did a training run the following week back in my usual Inov8 shoes and things remained comfortable. I’ll try and stick with them again.

Oh, here’s proof I finished:

I also raised money for the British Heart Foundation. Sponsorship is still open so certainly any further donations would be much appreciated.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

I will definitely do this again next year: The atmosphere and support from the crowds is excellent. I’m even considering doing a Half Marathon as my next running challenge, and there is a new one coming in 2014 in my area. Tempting!

Great South Run 2013 – Entered!


I have now entered this year’s Great South Run. I did it last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. The atmosphere was incredible with the streets lined with people lending their support, and in particular it was really good when running past my chosen charity’s support area!

I have left it pretty much until the last minute to enter (Just 500 places were left when I did). To be honest, in the deep throes of the troublesome achilles, I had written off the event for this year. However, in recent months it has healed up with real vigour which has also allowed me to train ‘for fun’ as well as all the usual refereeing activities. In no way am I at the same fitness levels as last year leading up to the event, but I know I can do it without too much drama.

On the serious side, my chosen charity is the British Heart Foundation. They are my standard charity primarily as my father was diagnosed with Angina, requiring support and a bypass operation! Coronary heart disease is the biggest single killer in the UK. The efforts of the BHF are really important.

There is a sponsor link below should you wish to do so. It would be appreciated.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Beating Insertional Achilles Tendonitis

1359701390228It has now been one month since I turned a corner in conquering my Insertional Achilles Tendonitis. Having struggled with it since February, to the degree that it made me not want to run and certainly not enjoy it in any way if I did, I made rapid improvements within days once I started using Superfeet for extra support.

I also got some new footwear, as I felt that the running shoes and football boots I was using were a size too small. While increasing the size did reduce any pressure on the back of the heel, and probably did help in the soothing of any aggravation going on, for actually running around it just made me prone to blisters. I ended up going back to my original size and without any ill-effect.

With the Superfeet in use, I have been able to gradually build up my running with zero achilles pain. The difference is remarkable. Prior to using them, I could not even run about in the garden with my daughter without the achilles playing up in an annoying and sore way. Very quickly, I was able to do a full football match with the achilles not even being noticeable. However, because of my lack of training over recent months, everything else hurt!

I have had a lot of fitness to build up again. I’m not back at pre-injury levels yet but am noticing strong gains all the time. However, I don’t really mind that, as I can run around and enjoy it with a smile on my face again! I think a strong indicator of being over an injury is when you just look forward to getting out there and training again, and the idea does not worry you.

Now, while using the support of the Superfeet to get over the injury has been great, I don’t want to become reliant on them forever. I have therefore been transitioning to removing them over time. As an example, doing one half of a football match without them, then doing the second half with them in. When they are not in use, I ‘feel’ my achilles more, so it is a case of being careful.

This has gone really well. For the last two days in a row, I did two 5k training runs in minimalist (inov-8) footwear and without the Superfeet. The achilles was noticeable but not painful. More importantly, after the run and the next morning it was absolutely fine. I have had to build up to this point and may now go back to using the Superfeet for a few sessions just to avoid doing Too Much Too Soon.

My key learning points to being successful in dealing with this horrifically stubborn injury are:

  1. SEE A SPECIALIST, GET A SCAN: In my case, nothing scary was revealed by getting this done. I feel a scan is important to rule out any complicating factors which could be present. Perhaps it is bursitis, and not the achilles? Is there a severe tear that needs immobilisation and/or surgery?
  2. REST: This is important to a degree. Certainly rest is required until any obvious acute pain is gone, and you should NOT RUN THROUGH PAIN. You know the difference between pain and soreness. Don’t be stupid. Rest on its own did not help me though: I took 3-4 weeks off running and when I went back to it, it was just the same as before. The problem is that you are not truly resting the achilles anyway if you are still walking around. Which leads me to…
  3. SORT OUT PAIN ON WALKING: This was the key for me. If the achilles is sore as you are walking around, it is not getting the chance to heal. This is where the Superfeet added enough support for comfort during the day, and gave the achilles that chance! Heel raises, orthotics… find out what you need. Some specialists may immobilise the achilles for a week or two to force this issue.
  4. CHECK FOOTWEAR: In my case, I went up a size, even if on a temporary basis. This added extra space around the heel so there was no tightness causing aggravation of the heel area. Those new shoes were not suitable for running and led to blisters, but for walking around during the day, they were absolutely perfect. If you can get away with ultra-cushioned running shoes at work then even better. Yes, such cushioning is a crutch, but that’s fine because you are injured!
  5. TAKE YOUR TIME: Depending on the extent of our lay-off, you will have lost fitness. Both in terms of cardio but also muscle strength and stability. Come back slowly. Take rest days as you need them. Enjoy the runs you are having pain-free and remember that you want to preserve that. There is no rush! Avoid hill running and sprint training to begin with and introduce over time as your confidence comes back.
  6. REMOVE TEMPORARY SOLUTIONS WHEN READY: As stated earlier in this article, I do not believe in using orthotics long-term. For helping an injury heal, sure, and I feel the same way about heel-raises, lots of cushioning and so on. Once everything is feeling good, work on removing those temporary fixes. Again, take your time. Mix it up a bit.

I hope you find this guide helpful, and please let me know your own stories!

My first supply league middle

1st-star-medal-gold Following on from my first game of the season (in a 4th official role), it was time to grab my whistle and have my first ‘middle’ of the season too. This was on my local supply league now that I am eligible to do those games following my promotion to Level 4.

The warm-up from the previous game had given me confidence that my achilles was going to behave, and I’m very happy to report that it stayed rock solid throughout the 90 minutes. However, the first game back is always a shock to the system, so the end result was that everything else hurt instead! Thankfully, just the usual DOMS after the game rather than anything more sinister.

The game itself went well although I am aware that I have a lot of work to do to get my fitness back to my peak level. That’s to be expected following the injury. I’ve resumed training runs again with the achilles remaining stable but I am being careful with how I am ramping up the activity to avoid anything else going ‘ping’.

It was a great moment to start that training run yesterday, as I was very much aware that I was able to run along pain free so had a big smile on my face!

It’s a busy week though: Another supply league middle coming up, then my first outing as Assistant Referee on the contrib, then refereeing an U18s Premier League Academy match!

Tentatively back on the Treadmill

treadmill-injuries I’ve been noticing a dramatic improvement in the achilles over the last few days, now that I’m wearing appropriate footwear and tackling my severe overpronation head-on. The best way of explaining this is that I am just not really noticing my achilles during the day and there is much reduced morning soreness.

As a result, it was time to do a controlled treadmill run to see where I was. For reference, the last time I did one of these a few weeks ago, I managed about 30 seconds before I needed to stop because I could tell it wasn’t doing me any good at all.

I did 17 minutes, broken down as follows:

  1. 3 minutes – Warm-up to 8.5 km/h.
  2. 7 minutes – Run at 13.5 km/h.
  3. 4 minutes – Run at 8.5 km/h.
  4. 30 seconds – Run at 12.5 km/h.
  5. 30 seconds – Run at 15.5 km/h.
  6. 2 minutes – Cool-down.

I was amazed at how strong the achilles felt. There was a slight twinge when starting which faded very quickly, and the same when there was an increase in speed. Again, it went away pretty quickly. This was one of those situations where I could have just kept running but I wanted to avoid ‘Too Much Too Soon’, so kept it short and sweet.

Remember, I lasted just 30 seconds last time. The improvement in just a matter of days is wonderful and has given me a LOT of confidence. I actually enjoyed running! The footwear change and Superfeet are doing the business so far, and this is after months of struggling to deal with rehabilitating the injury.

Of course, an important indicator is how I felt after the treadmill session. There was no additional soreness, and when feeling around the achilles and foot it again struck me how much it has improved this week. If anything, it felt a lot more opened up. The ‘Morning After’ test was also a positive: The achilles felt better than the previous morning, and I hadn’t done any exercise then!

I did a quick bent-knee calf-stretch this morning. This has always been the stretch which really aggravated the injury before. Now I can reach my full range of motion with only a tiny feeling of discomfort, as opposed to the ‘Argh, I should NOT be doing this!’ sensation of before.

I need to stay disciplined with this, but this week has been a major step forward. I’m happy!

Achilles Ultrasound – All clear to referee (carefully!)

allclear1 I had the follow-up with my consultant this evening, now that the ultrasound on my achilles had been performed. I had been feeling pretty nervous about this as I’ve been looking forward to getting cracking on with the start of the season, and did not want any upsets!

This was the report:

No plantaris tendon was identified separate to the Achilles tendon. There is unremarkable retro-Achilles bursa measuring maximum 1mm depth. There is a strand of low and less linear reflectivity within the Achilles insertion onto the calcaneum centrally and medially, each measuring approximately 1mm deep and up to 2cm length. No increased perfusion is detected. The mid and proximal Achilles tendon and musculotendinous junction look normal. No retrocalcaneal bursitis is detected. No paratenonitis is detected. No erosion of the calcaneum at the Achilles insertion is detected. No calcification in the Achilles tendon is detected.”


Subtle features suggestive of a couple of fine strands of tendinopathy insertional within the medial and central insertion of Achilles tendon.

Essentially, there is a tiny little tear in there which looks like it has been healing well. ‘Healing well’ is indicated by the fact that no evil calcification or other knock-on effects such as aggravation to the bursa have been happening.

I went through my recent improvements with the consultant (including the new footwear). This included the findings on my severe overpronation and the Superfeet orthotic. The good news is that he approved of all this, and in particular that the orthotic was the appropriate type. In his own words, “You seem to be fixing yourself!”.

He is happy for me to carefully resume refereeing. I have also been referred to a recommended physio (my consultant used them for his ACL tear) to work on continued strength and flexibility training.

Achilles injuries are SLOW to heal (poor blood supply), so I feel there is still a bit of a journey ahead of me with this. It will be good to get back to running and other physical training, as getting the weight down will help with all this too!

Bring it on!

Taking on my severe overpronation with Superfeet

skeleton-superfeet Recent video gait analysis (and hey, the same sort of thing done years ago) has confirmed that I am severely overpronating. Just looking at the video made me wince, and it has made all the puzzle pieces fit together regarding my achilles tendonitis.

I picked up some properly fitted running shoes at the weekend (in the correct size too, which might help, huh?), and the extra support for my achilles is immediately obvious. I got new football boots too, again in the correct size, but football boots are traditionally very neutral and do not give much, if any, support. I would be continuing to overpronate and send my achilles into oblivion.

What to do?

Well, orthotics can help with this, and my online research had turned up many positive comments about Superfeet. As a result, I popped along to Alexandra Sports to be fitted out (You can just grab them online but the personal touch is always good!).

The fitting

The customer care at Alexandra Sports was excellent. I took along my new boots so the Superfeet insoles could be fully tested. I tried both the blue and black versions. Both are designed for footwear where there isn’t a great amount of free space, even after taking out the original insoles. Football boots fit into this category!

My preference was the blue. Everything fitted nicely (the lady serving trimmed them as required) and they were really comfortable. The blue give more support so it was a done deal.

And here they are (well, one of them!):

photo (8)

I also have the option of putting these in my running shoes if required. We’ll see.

I performed a quick run on the treadmill with the Superfeet fitted. Wow. NO DISCOMFORT AT ALL. This is a major win for me. Even when the achilles was feeling in a ‘good mood’ I would always be aware of it. During this test, including ramping up the speed to 15 km/h or so (which in itself demonstrated my confidence) everything felt stable. The video replay showed my overpronation had been solved to a huge degree, with my right leg looking pretty normal, although the left leg is still not ideal (it was always the worst, which is ironic considering the right leg was the one that got injured).

Next Steps

As with any shoe change, there has to be a break-in period. I’m wearing one pair of my new boots around with the Superfeet fitted: They are turf shoes (Adidas Mundial Team) which means this doesn’t look weird! I have a 4th official appointment this Friday and then an actual game Saturday.

This is all positive news to take to my consultant tomorrow evening. I just hope he agrees it is positive enough…