Outdoor running season is finally here, and with that often comes “shin-splint season” for many runners who gear up to hit the pavement.
It’s time to get off the treadmill and start running on the trails, and whether your goal is weight loss or to train for a marathon, the impact of running and poor running mechanics can lead to numerous injuries, including shin splints. For a sport that simply entails putting one foot in front of the other, running has the potential to expose an individual to a wide variety of injuries. During a mile of running the feet strike the ground, on average, between 800 – 1200 times with a force of two-to-three times one’s body weight. The repetitive nature of this type of stress can be the starting point for a number of overuse injuries.
Shin splints happen most often with new runners who try to do too much too soon, and runners who go from the “treadmill to the track” too soon. Proper footwear and body mechanics are also important factors. Shin splints can be prevented or treated, all it takes is a little extra care and effort on your part. A few items to remember:
Increase your mileage slowly, especially when taking your run outdoors.
If you suddenly change your weekly volume of running from 25 to 75 miles, because you’ve been bitten by the marathon bug for example, something will have to give, and it might well be your shin muscles and tendons. So, be certain to avoid dramatic changes in the frequency, volume, and intensity of your training; always gradually progress to more difficult levels of work.
Stretching and strength training.
You can start stretching the ankle area by slowly moving the ankle in full circular rotation. Take extra care to stretch the ankle in dorsi- and plantar- flexion (forward and back). The experts also recommend strengthening the ankle area by adding resistance to the above stretching movements with the use of resistance tubing or elastic bands. That is indeed a way to increase general strength of the ankle, and it will certainly make you stronger.
What to do if you do end up with shin splints:
If you still end up with shin splints and experience sharp pain while you are training, stop all running workouts, ice and stretch, take ibuprofen if you have no contraindications to it, and— when pain subsides— systematically begin stretching and strengthening exercises again, starting slowly and gradually progressing back to running. Use the exercise bike to maintain fitness and return to normal training in four-to-six weeks.