Summer of splints
August 15, 2008 § 6 Comments
I’ve spent a lot of time running this summer, preparing for my first half marathon in September (photo credit). I usually run on gravel roads in the woods close to where I live. But as most of my vacation was spent away from home I was forced to run more on asphalt than I’m used to.
After a few days of running I started to feel a little sore on the front of the tibia on both legs. I’d felt this some times before, but the soreness had disappeared then, and I’d just thought it was due to stiffness of the muscles. But I didn’t think this could be the case now, as I was fitter than ever.
I sent a question describing the case to a Norwegian fitness site and got a very detailed answer from a physiotherapist. I’d probably developed a mild case of shin splints, more formally known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). A very common ailment with runners, but I’d actually never heard of it before.
There can be several reasons for shin splints, but the most common is overstressing of the muscles of the lower leg due to too fast increase in training distance and/or intensity. This did not seem to be the case with me however, as I’d increased my mileage and pace gradually over several months. Most probably the change to a harder running surface caused the problem.
So what to do? A lot of websites recommends cutting out all running for a couple of months to allow the muscles to repair themselves. The physiotherapist I asked however did not recommend this. On the contrary he said continuing running was vital if I wanted to keep training. Without running the muscles and tendons would never get used to the straining. He advised me to reduce the volume and intensity of training together with a few other measures. They’ve all worked for me and the soreness (it never came to be a real pain) is all but gone:
- Shorter runs and only on gravel roads and forest paths.
- Investing in new and adjusted running shoes. I went to a place where they let you run on a threadmill to find the best fitting shoes for your feet.
- Stretching the shins before and after running. Here is a video showing how to stretch properly.
- Strengthening the calf muscles with a simple exercise. Standing on the edge of a stair with the toes on the step and the heels hanging off the edge, you lift your heels as high as you can and then lower them down past the step. 3×10 repetitions.
And so I keep on training for that half marathon!
Here the physiotherapist’s detailed answer (in Norwegian) to my question on shin splints.
I envy you, my (cervical) spine punishes me if I run now. I had to switch to a bike. Now I am on call so much that I just bought an indoor bike trainer so i can ride without leaving the house. I do love to run though and miss it a great deal. Very good luck with your 1/2 marathon!
Too bad about the running. I really enjoy getting out in the woods or along empty streets at dusk.
Cycling is also great, though. But you miss the scenery inside. Unless you got one of those landscape wallpapers, of course ;)
good to see that you’re back. another tip to avoid shin splints is to NOT extend your legs out fully, i.e. lock it as you land. make sure your knees are slightly bent so this will help absorb the shock a little better. this way you never get shin splints. i did the 45k and no shin splints!
Thanks for the tip, Jeff!
Yeah, riding inside is totally boring! Fortunately it’s just a filler so I can ride/exercise more than 1 or 2 times a week. Wish I could find a comfortable seat though!
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