Heel bursitis hurts: Olympic Training Log: January 2-January 8

foot showing heel

Closeup of heel showing scar from surgery 17 years ago

[Please scroll down to view this week’s Training Log.]

My heel bursitis story:

This week’s training log will make it clear that heel bursitis was beginning to seriously hamper my running. Rest days from running, filled with cross-training, will be a constant feature of my training log right up until the 1988 Olympics.

I believe my heel bursitis began in November of 1987 when I tried a new brand of shoes that were narrower or more rigid in the heel cup than the Nike shoes I was used to. Although I only wore the different shoes once or twice, the injury had been provoked. I discovered that heel bursitis is one of the most intractable injuries a runner can face. In fact, I ended up putting up with it for eight years before I finally had surgery in 1995. After surgery, I was on crutches for five weeks, followed by an additional four months of not running. The injury never bothered me after that.

Tips for dealing with heel bursitis:

  1. I can’t stress enough that the most important thing is to nip this injury in the bud. Avoid wearing shoes that are tight in the heel. If you feel pain in your heel area below the Achilles tendon, don’t run!
  2. This injury is insidious because even if you feel pain at the start of a run, your heel will warm up. The pain will go away, leading you to think the injury isn’t serious. However, chances are that the pain will return with a vengeance hours after your workout is finished. Your heel will hurt even more the next morning.
  3. I found that prescription anti-inflammatory drugs were very helpful in keeping heel bursitis at a controllable level that allowed me to keep running three or four days a week. However, using anti-inflammatories is a double-edged sword. The drugs will initially reduce your pain significantly. If you are greedy and try working out too hard or too often, you will make the injury much worse without noticing any pain until it’s too late. Also, many people can’t take prescription anti-inflammatories in the long-term, as I did for several years. These drugs can have side effects, notably gastrointestinal irritation.
  4. When you have heel bursitis, make sure you wear loose, well-cushioned shoes at all times. Even walking can irritate the injury.
  5. If the injury keeps returning even after long periods of not running, surgery may be the only option. I wish I hadn’t delayed having surgery for so long. There was some disagreement as to whether or not it would be helpful. However, I know that many elite runners have had this surgery to remove scar tissue. Sometimes I wondered if it was simply the long period of being completely off my feet after the surgery that allowed the injury to finally disappear.

Training Log

[Paul and I were still training in Ostia, near Rome.]

January 2, 1988

AM: Walked 10 min, jogged to forest and continued easy warmup 29 min total. Did 4 circuits [2-mile circuits]—2 min rest, 2½ min between #3 and #4. Times 10:54, 10:43, 10:39, 10:49. Felt tired today. Foot pretty sore in warmup. Jogged home—about 13 miles. Very tired rest of day. Knee OK!

January 3, 1988

AM: 30 min exercises.

January 4, 1988

AM: Walked 10 min. Jogged to forest, did 18 min more at moderate pace. Did 4 circuits: times 10:45, 10:32!, 10:41, 10:47. Felt quite good, jogged home easily, but very tired rest of day. Foot very sore 5–10 min, then OK, sore later. Knee OK.

January 5, 1988

AM: 35 min exercises. Foot sore in morning.

January 6, 1988

[Back in Brussels.]

AM: Swim 50 lengths 38:45. Pool crowded with kids.

PM: Bike 50 min including 6 loops on lake ring road. Foot sore walking today.

January 7, 1988

AM: Rode bike 2½ hours, past Waterloo and back. Didn’t push hard, but legs very tired last hour.

PM: Weights—”pull-endurance” plus situps, hamstring curls, cleans, snatches. Worked hard 63 min. Heel seems slightly better today.

January 8, 1988

AM: Swim 50 lengths 40:25! Felt good, but arms very tired from weights yesterday. Heel improving.

This week: 26 miles running, 2 exercise workouts, 1 weight workout, 2 swim workouts, 2 bike workouts.

About nancytinarirunswrites

I used to be known as a competitive runner, but now I have a new life as a professional writer and editor. I'm even more obsessive about reading, writing, and editing than I was about running. Running has had a huge influence on my life, though, and runner's high does fuel creativity. Maybe that's why this blog evolved into being 95% about running, but through blogging I'm also learning about writing and online communication. I'm fascinated by how the Internet has changed work, learning, and relationships. I love to connect in new and random ways!
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