My time in the Intensive Rehabilitation Unit (IRU)
I was fortunate to be able to attend a rehab unit and it turned out to be quite a fun experience. The Intensive Rehabilitation Unit (IRU) is a dedicated facility for funded athletes to rehab under guidance. It was extremely informative and got me working on areas of my body I was potentially slack in before. It also got me working on focussed rehab for my achilles in a safe and controlled environment, which was the most beneficial thing to speed up the recovery process. The team were great; Andy, Fionn and Becky as well as the admin staff all made you feel welcome and looked after. I met Eilidh Doyle at the centre as she was also going through some minor rehab and with only 3 athletes being looked after at a time, we were spoilt! I am extremely lucky to have access to such great facilities, but the work carried out can be recreated at home or at a local gym, it would just require some guidance.
The main layout of my rehab was split into 4 areas; strength & conditioning (S&C), physiology, physiotherapy and soft tissue therapy. S&C had 2 areas of focus; trunk stability and foot/ankle rehab, minimising the range of motion of my foot in the early stages of recovery but strengthening as much as possible. The physiology sessions helped me not only work out ways I can train my body for anaerobic and aerobic development, but also how to better focus my mind for the heavier endurance sessions. A watt bike and a pool are all you need to keep fit during early stages of rehab. The benefit of being in a big boot for 6 weeks is the security it allows around the foot and ankle. You can push yourself through bike sessions with little risk to the injured achilles. I had to be a little tentative when out of the boot but soon built the strength again. Patience is the key at the transitions.
It was important to treat the wound regularly to reduce scar tissue development, as well as keep the foot free and unrestricted through soft tissue massage. The physio sessions 2 – 3 times per week were dedicated to wound recovery, whereas the therapy sessions twice a week were to keep the rest of the body moving and free of restriction. During my time at the IRU, I had my nutrition taken care of and ultrasound checks with the doc to ensure all my tendons were healthy and that things were moving in the right direction. If you are doing rehab without assistance from a rehab unit of some kind, it will require a bit of work and planning but is totally possible to achieve on your own. My advice is to always listen to your body, and take note of any sensations you experience along the way and most importantly, seek advice from a professional.