I was recently diagnosed with Achilles' tendinitis in my right Achilles heel. I usually run 30 minutes twice a week and do HIIT training 2-3 times a week (circuit training including burpees, squats, push ups, etc.) What are some cardio and HIIT exercises I can do that will not exacerbate the pain while I go to physical therapy?
To address your question directly, you should not do any running or HIIT training until your Achilles tendinitis has healed fully. And that recovery should include a tentative and gradual return to your regular training volume and intensity.
Loads equivalent to 2–3 times the body's weight are typically exerted on each leg during running, and the ‘high’ part of HIIT is precisely what you want to avoid during this time of recovery. Whilst there are a few exercises within those circuits that you may be able perform safely, it would be prudent to practice them in a more traditional set-and-rest format.
Of course, I understand that that is not what you would like to hear—we've all been there—but training success is strongly associated with discipline, and that discipline applies not only to our dedication to exercise, but also to our dedication to recovery. Indeed, it is worth reminding yourself that performance improves not during training, but recovery. And a few weeks lost now will save you a few months lost later.
Any exercise that involves rapid or cyclical dorsi- or plantar flexion—running, skipping, jumping—should be avoided. So too anything that loads the calves significantly.
Your best choice for aerobic training is cycling, since it involves no ankle flexion or impact. And of course, upper-body exercises like hand cycling (or ‘grinding’), speed ball, or floor-to-ceiling ball work can be performed without trouble, if you have the skills and equipment.
Be patient, and you'll be back into regular training soon. Good luck!
As an on-water rower, I am partial to rowing on an erg for my aerobic work. Assuming you get permission from a physical therapist, using an erg can supplement your training safely and efficiently. A proper rowing technique on the erg consists of “legs, back, arms” (“catch, drive, release”) in that order. This movement allows a total body workout. The typical erg movement involves vertical shins at the “catch”. This would be contraindicated for your condition. However, you may be able to complete the movement if you experience no pain and keep your feet flat on the footplates. That would translate to your shins at less than 90 degrees thus reducing the stress on your heel and Achilles. You may be able to tolerate a partial rowing movement and still maintain some sort of fitness. Either way, seek the advice of a therapist before trying an erg.
“Achilles Tendinopathy An aching Achilles tendon has been the downfall of many athletes. So, if you feel pain, do not ignore it. Take a break from all sports that make it worse, especially running or activities that involve running. Using a rowing machine is a good way to stay fit while resting your Achilles tendon. You may be able to use an elliptical trainer as well. “