Shin Splints: A spanner in the works

Injury Alert!

It’s what every athlete worries about: getting injured in the run up to a big event.

Peas and Shin Splints

Peas and Shin Splints

I’m not sure if taking part in the Brighton Marathon is at risk, but I know the next couple of weeks of training are in jeopardy.  For the last few weeks I’ve been developing a pain in my lower right leg.  Having experienced shin splints in the past I’ve been conscious that I need to take care, so using my “special shoes” I’ve adapted my training plan to avoid running on consecutive days.  But as the intensity and volume of training has built up, the old curse has caught up with me again.

During a rare visit to my GP today (nagged relentlessly by Mrs G to make an appointment on account of my pronounced limp since Sundays 20 miler) I was told to rest, ice and elevate the leg whilst following a course of anti-inflammatory tablets.  The doctor told me that my leg might not get better in time for the marathon but experience tells me that these things usually pass within 10 days or so.  But being ready for 6 April is now a big concern so I am following instructions to the letter as you can see in the picture!

What are Shin Splints?

Common!  That’s what they are! Our medical mates would prefer to call the most common form of the condition by it’s

Shin Splints as Illustrated by Pro-Tec Athletics

Shin Splints as Illustrated by Pro-Tec Athletics

Sunday name of Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS).  The picture from the Pro-Tec Athletics gives you a good view of what we are talking about.

Shin splints is the term used for any pain at the front of your lower leg between the knee and ankle.  They are really a symptom of any type of lower leg malfunction! And there is no single cause for the pain.  The article given to me by my GP is held on patient.co.uk and I’ve provided the link here.  The pain can vary too: shins may become sensitive to touch or grow from an occasional dull ache through to a constant pain,

Due to the variety of issues that shin splints can be symptomatic of, the causes are wide and varied.  From my perspective, my self diagnosis is linked to under-pronation in my foot-fall due to having high arches (or stiletto feet as the’ve been called in the past).  For the last few weeks the pain has dissipated a minute or so in to a training run but returned the day after.  Other runners experience shin splints when they run further or faster, run on hard surfaces or when they wear they wrong types of shoes (or the right type of shoes that have worn out).

There are other possible causes of shin pain but stress fractures or muscle hernias are less common.

How should shin splints be treated?

I suppose that first of all you want the pain to stop.  So that means stopping training for a while until the pain goes.  You can speed up getting rid of the pain by following the normal guidance of using ice, elevation and painkillers.  But they won’t fully go (and they’ll probably get worse) if you don’t rest, rest, rest!

If the pain doesn’t go within a few days then it might be worth a trip to the doctor as there are other things that is could be which could need more attention.

From what I’ve read, you can still cross train or cycle during the rest period (great news which means I’ll be out on my bike  at the weekend!)

Avoiding them

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that you’ll shake them off never to return! Some tips that I’ve read about (but remember I’m sitting here with frozen peas on my leg) are:

  • Get proper running shoes fitted – go to a place with a gait machine, talk to experts, don’t scrimp!  Somewhere like my favourite shop The Running Fox in Loughborough is great
  • Change your shoes regularly make your own judgement but I think I’ve left it too long and the cushioning has gone which has caused this bout of pain
  • Train sensibly – too much too soon is only going to lead to problems
  • If the right trainers don’t help, visit a podiatrist to consider some insoles (or orthotics) for your trainers
  • Give up running, buy a bike and get cycling!!

References and Useful Links

NHS: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/shin-splints/Pages/Introduction.aspx

BUPA: http://www.bupa.co.uk/individuals/health-information/directory/s/shin-splints

Pro-Tech Athletics: http://www.pro-tecathletics.com/59055/Shin-Splints.html

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I really didn’t want to go for that run

I really, really didn’t feel like going for a long run yesterday.

After a weeks holiday with my kids I was well relaxed and really only wanted to spend a final day with them before going back to work.  I’d done a tough 65km bike ride on Saturday followed by dinner at Frankie & Benny’s where I stuffed myself on a double cheeseburger.  So whilst my muscles ached, I knew I’d not fuelled myself properly and my brain was still on holiday – and I definitely didn’t want to go for a run.

The trees in my garden showed the tell tale signs of another strong wind and the grey clouds on the horizon suggested another damp run.  When the kids got up they both sat with me and we started watching Mr Stink on TV – an adaptation of the David Walliams book.  We only got half way through before I had to get ready to go for the run (that I definitely didn’t want to do) and I promised we’d watch the rest when I got home.

Thankfully, my friend Leanne was running the first 12 miles with me and because we’d arranged an 8.30 start I got myself in to gear and we headed off out in to the wind.  With the breeze behind us we headed through the village, dropping off my spare drink bottle on a wall outside our friend Emma’s house.  After a few hundred yards the sharp pain in my right calf/shin had subsided to a dull throb and ,even though my legs continued to feel heavy, we settled in to a good pace.

The first 12 miles passed at about my target pace of 8 min/miles.  I said goodbye to Leanne and grabbed my second drink off Emma’s wall and set of for loop number 2 daydreaming about what I’d be eating when I arrived home.  The fantasy was a sausage sandwich on thick fresh bread, but eventually reality turned out to be beans on toast. Deliberating which way to avoid the worst exposure to the wind (and getting it wrong) I took the steady drag out of the village, looped back across a small country lane and got back in to the boundaries of Stoney Stanton with about 18.6 miles under my belt.

If I’d have headed straight home I’d have covered just over 19 miles.  But from somewhere I found some motivation to tip it over 20 miles.  I figured that 20 is a great milestone to have under my belt and that it would be a fantastic confidence booster to do “over 20” rather than “over 19”.

Training-wise it probably makes little difference and my average pace was a little slower than I’d want, but hey – I’ve now done over 20 miles (20.01 miles to be exact).  That only leaves 6 more to do on the day (6.19 to be exact).  And with another couple of runs at around the same distance, but hopefully in better conditions, I should be well on target for a good run in 6 April.

Not bad considering I really didn’t want to go for a run.

A fast short long one …

It was a welcome respite from those long, long Sunday runs this week as my training plan suggested a fast 10k run (or race) was the best way to spend Sunday morning.  Coincidentally, it was the same weekend that we’d booked to go away to a cottage in the Cotswolds so it all fell together quite nicely.

One of many flooded fields in Oxfordshire

One of many flooded fields in Oxfordshire

I love running somewhere new and this weekend was no exception.  We were staying just outside of the small village of Kingham which was far enough north to have escaped the worst of the flooding, but still wet enough to change the landscape for a few days.

My route around Kingham, Churchill and back looked straightforward when I planned it and the first two kilometres were great.  The sun was shining for the first time in weeks and, whilst it was cool and crisp, the calmness of the air made it the most enjoyable running conditions so for this year!

I intentionally set out at a fast tempo avoiding any frosty patches that the sun hadn’t yet warmed and covered the first few kilometres through the village in good time.  The road kicked up a couple of times so inevitably my pace slowed a little but things got even more troublesome in the final kilometre or so when I realised I must have taken a wrong turn and began running on an unfamiliar road clearly in the wrong direction!

I should have paid more attention to this

I should have paid more attention to this

Being dedicated to running as fast a 10k as possible I just ignored the fact that I was lost and kept going until Runkeeper announced I’d done the distance I set out to do (albeit finishing a couple of miles south of where I’d intended!!!).  Taking stock of where I’d ended up, I made the embarrassing S.O.S. call to Mrs G and heard my eldest daughter in the background saying “Is Daddy lost again!!”

When my wife arrived to my rescue I tried to deflect from the daftness of getting lost by gloating that I’d averaged under 7 minute miles for the 10k but it was to no avail.  So when I was taking a post-run hot-tub back at the cottage I just had to soak up the stick I was taking from them all.  Like I said – I love running in new places but really should pay a bit of attention to where I’m going!

But I still averaged 6.59 minute miles and that’ll keep me buzzing until next weekends 19 miler!