Your Achilles tendon is the strongest and largest tendon in your body. It connects your calf to your heel so that you can walk, run and carry out daily activities. If your Achilles tendon is overworked or not flexible enough, you could be prone to extremely inconvenient and potentially painful injuries. Read on for some tips on how to keep your Achilles tendon from being your Achilles heel.
Strengthen the Muscles and Tendon
One of the best ways to guard your Achilles tendon against injury is to strengthen it. You'll also want to strengthen the body parts around it as well, especially your calf muscles. Think of it as your Achilles tendon calling for backup; you want to maintain strong calves so that you avoid putting as much strain on your tendons. You can strengthen your calves and Achilles tendons with a simple exercise that uses a stair-step. Stand on the edge of the step with your heels hanging off and slowly lift while counting to 10 until you're on your tiptoes. Descend with a count of 10 as well, and don't hesitate to use handrails or a nearby wall for balance. If you feel uncomfortable or precarious standing on the edge of a step, then you can also do some simple leg lifts on the floor. Simply go through the same motions while counting to 10 in each direction. Be sure to take breaks when needed.
Stretch the Lower Leg
Along with boosting tendon and muscle strength, it's important to increase the flexibility in your legs as well. Improving flexibility can help reduce damage caused by a sudden overstretching of the tendon. When you increase your normal range of motion with frequent stretching, you expand your body's limits and ability to handle unexpected movements. Just like with strength training, you'll want to tackle the entire lower leg in order to get the best results. You can increase the flexibility of your Achilles tendon by doing gentle lunge stretches if your current level of strength and balance permit you to perform them safely. For some added stability, you can also stretch your lower leg with a series of simple floor exercises:
Sit on the floor with your legs extended and loop a belt around one foot.
Slowly pull it until you feel a good stretch all the way up the back of your lower leg.
Slowly release the tension and repeat on the other leg.
Maintain a Nutritious Diet
In order to make sure you're getting the most out of your exercise and stretching routines and protecting yourself against injury, eat a diet rich in nutritious foods. Pay special attention to your intake of foods that have been connected to muscle and tendon health, such as eggs, yellow vegetables, leafy greens, and fatty fish and shellfish. Make sure you're getting optimal levels of Vitamins A, C, E and D as well as the B-group vitamins. Glucosamine and chondroitin are also crucial for good ligament and joint health. Your Achilles tendon is extremely important when it comes to mobility and daily functioning. Make sure you're taking care of yourself by increasing strength and flexibility in your lower legs through exercise and nutrition.
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