If you’ve ever had shin splints, the name alone can cause a shudder. That aching pressure in the lower legs, as if our shinbones are brittle twigs bent at odd angles, can damage our workout performance and even deter us from running. With spring finally here and the treadmill lines and running trails opening up, the question is this—how can we stop shin splints before they stop us?
First off, many factors can lead to an irritating case of shin splints, or Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS). What’s more, these influencing factors can combine to increase both the likelihood of the injury and the severity of its symptoms. These deciding factors include:
- Sharp increases in exercise activity
- Running on hard or uneven surfaces
- Using worn-out footwear
- Poor flexibility in the legs
- Muscle weaknesses in the legs
In other words, if you didn’t work out this winter, have a derelict pair of 2008 gym shoes, and plan to run on a concrete road without stretching—you’re a prime candidate for quickly getting derailed this spring. But now that we know something of the root causes, let’s go over how to prevent shin-tastrophe before it strikes.
- Stretch: And not the three-second pseudo stretch from middle school gym class, either. Do a variety of calf, hamstring and quadriceps stretches, remembering to hold each position for at least 20 seconds, and preferably 30. Even better: focus on getting those wall calf stretches in.
- Get New Shoes: If you haven’t purchased running shoes in a year or longer, it’s probably time to ante up. Don’t purchase shoes online, as you can’t tell if your order will fit well or support your feet. Go to a store that specializes in running shoes, and find the ideal pair in person.
- Gradually Increase Activity: Regardless of your cardio prowess, don’t bolt out the door and turn into marathon man just yet. If you haven’t been running much in the past few months, you should gradually increase activity until you reach the level you’d like to consistently run at.
- Search for Surfaces: Concrete is a killer, and pavement isn’t much better. If you can help it, run on an outdoor track, a running trail, grass surfaces or gravel. While inside the gym, make sure you’ve got a treadmill with a good absorption system (such as the FlexDeck Shock Absorption System).
- Build Leg Muscles and Core Muscles: If the front of your legs are strong, they’ll support a large degree of athletic activity without succumbing to MTSS. (Try toe lifts and heel walks.) Your core should be strengthened because it will take pressure off your legs, thus reducing the stress around your shins.
Two other possible causes of shin splints are stress fractures and compartment syndrome, in which case you’ll want to get advice from a medical professional. If what you have is MTSS, however, you can follow our advice and spring toward an injury-free running season.
This article was originally published on Life Fitness blog. For more health and fitness information visit LifeFitness.com/blog.
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