5. Shin Splints
The symptoms: The umbrella term “shin splints” can refer to a number of ailments that involve pain in the shin area. At their worst, shin splints can turn into a stress fracture along the tibia, and searing pain will be felt with every stride; in less severe cases, the muscles in the shin area may be tender and inflamed, and pain lessens a few miles into the run. Either way, shin pain is a surefire way to make your running experience markedly unenjoyable.
The causes: Shin pain can most often be traced back to a sudden spike in training volume and intensity. This is why, for example, it is a common complaint among brand-new runners beginning a training program and young athletes at the start of high school track or cross-country season. When you run, your lower legs take all of the initial impact forces, which then run through the rest of your body. Newer runners’ lower legs aren’t yet strong enough to handle this stress, which is why it’s important to develop a solid base before increasing mileage or introducing speed work. Combine that inexperience with regular running on hard surfaces and worn-out or improper footwear and you have a recipe for disaster. And as with many of the aforementioned injuries, tight muscles don’t help matters either. The less mobile the muscles surrounding your shin are, the more stress there is on the entire area.
The fix: Rest, ice, and anti-inflammatories will help reduce the tenderness and inflammation. As you ease back into running, pay attention to your training, as well as to your equipment and environment. Increasing volume and intensity too quickly will almost always lead to trouble. The training plans in this book are designed to up your volume and intensity methodically and slowly, which eases you into the stress that running a lot asks of your legs. Running on soft surfaces such as trails or grass will help reduce the impact on your lower legs, and paying close attention to the mileage on your running shoes will ensure that you’re not trotting on tired treads.
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