How to Workout When You Have Shin Splints
Shin splints are a common overuse injury characterized by an inflamed and painful tibialis posterior muscle.
Also referred to as “medial tibial stress syndrome” (MTTS), shin splints present as pain felt along the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia).
They occur at the beginning of a fitness program in which the participant is not fully prepared for intense training.
Although this injury is commonplace amongst new runners, it can also be a problem for long jumpers and aerobic dancers.
Athletes, sports players, and fitness buffs will often apply the PRICE principles of protection, rest, ice compression and elevation to recover from a shin splints injury.
And, while that method is essential in helping you return to full fitness, maintaining physical activity even when nursing a shin splints injury is also vital.
Exercise will ensure that your leg muscles do not become weak, which would increases chances of suffering recurring shin splints once normal training is resumed.
However, health experts warn against pushing through the pain when dealing with a shin splints injury because that would cause the tibia (shinbone) to develop a stress fracture.
So, how can you remain active without making the injury worse? Here are a few tips on how to workout when you have shin splints.
How to Exercise with Shin Splints
Depending on the severity of your injury, it can take anywhere between 3 and 12 weeks to fully recover from shin splints.
At various stages of the recovery period, you can gradually resume exercise that aims to strengthen leg muscles or maintain fitness.
From the onset, shin splints can be debilitating and tend to flare up with every step.
However, pain subsides with rest. So, once walking becomes pain free, stretching, strengthening, and flexibility exercises can commence.
As long as its pain free, start off with simple workouts like heel raises, squats, leg extensions (raising the leg behind your body while bending) and hip abductions (raising your leg from the other one in lateral direction).
It is important not to rush into resuming your full exercise regimen before scar tissues on the tibialis posterior have fully regenerated.
Very gradually, add walking to your shin splints recovery program. Increase the speed and duration of your walks slowly provided you remain pain free.
Getting Back to Full Fitness
Swimming and biking are low impact alternative workouts to walking that you can also try when returning to full fitness.
Both activities will help to maintain cardiovascular fitness and endurance without aggravating shin splints symptoms.
You can also return to light jogging provided walking has been pain-free for at least 2-weeks. Remember to apply kinesio tape on the shins to support them when you gradually resume more intense workouts.
Also, don’t be tempted to return to intense leg workouts like uphill/downhill running and jumping too quickly.
Ease into your leg workouts by gradually increasing frequency, duration and intensity until you are confident enough to resume full training.
While it is possible to continue exercising even after suffering from a shin splints injury, that may not be the case for everyone.
If your injury is severe enough, even cycling can make the condition worse and lengthen the healing process.
It is therefore wise to consult a chiropractor or physical therapist, especially if there is reason to believe the leg pain you are experiencing could be something more serious than shin splints.
5 Tips for Preventing Running Injuries
Whether done professionally or for fitness purposes, running, like all forms of exercising, comes with the risk of injury.
This risk becomes even greater if you have weak muscles, follow a poor training plan, overlook safety, or take on too much too fast.
Knowing how to train right and the precaution measures to take is the best way to protect yourself from running injuries.
Use these tips to reduce running error and ensure safety when training on the open road, treadmill, track, or your favorite trail.
1) Build Momentum Gradually
When it comes to running, patience pays especially if you are fresh off the couch.
Jumping in too quickly in a bid to drop extra pounds quickly and hit that 21K goal you have in mind will only lead to an overexertion injury such as a busted knee, pulled hamstring, sprained ankle, or even overall fatigue.
So, give your body time to get used to the impact of running by starting small and building momentum gradually.
A good starting point would be 30-minute runs for 3-4 times a week. As your body gets stronger and accustomed to enduring runs, you can up workout intensity with gradual increments of 1-2 miles or 5-10 minutes at a time.
2) Include Strength Training In Your Running Program
What most people are not aware of is that the best defense against running injuries is a strong body.
Strong muscles, ligaments, and tendons greatly reduce the impact running has on the body.
What’s more, strength in muscles works at improving form and leads to a consistent gait that greatly minimizes the chances of suffering a running-related injury.
Therefore, if you will be running regularly, make sure to include strength training into your workout plan.
Key areas to focus on are the core, hip muscles, and lower body. Strong abs, glutes, and hip muscles increase leg stability all the way down to the ankles.
This stability in turn protects knees from injury and provides a solid landing foundation that is light on all involved muscles.
3) Do Not Overdo It with Your Warm-ups
Like with any form of exercise a good warm up routine prior to the planned running session helps prevent injuries.
However, overdoing it with the warm-up can cause more harm than good.
So, leave those deep lunges, yoga poses, and pull-ups, for the cool down part of your routine and instead engage in very light movements (such as front, back, and side bends, hip flexor stretches, leg stretches, or a light walk that gradually turns into a jog) before embarking on your run.
The key is to engage in routines that require continuous movement as opposed to workouts that require you to hold a position for long.
4) Heed Warning Signs
With the few exceptions of a misstep that results in a fall, a bad landing that causes an ankle to twist awkwardly, or a rough movement that pulls a hamstring, most running injuries have a gradual onset.
For the most part, pain that gets worse with movement, persistent soreness, impaired movement, or aches that take longer than usual to subside will develop long before injury occurs.
Ignoring warning signs and pressing through the pain can turn what was a simple case of continuous soreness into a full-blown injury.
For this reason, make it a rule to stop all intense physical activity for a few days if something hurts.
Once pain is gone, resume your normal workout plans at a gradual pace.
5) Wear the Right Shoes
Lastly, you must invest in quality running shoes.
Without good running shoes, all efforts taken towards preventing injury go down the drain as a bad pair of shoes interferes with your running form and delivers a tough blow to your muscles with each stride.
So, make sure to take the time to shop for running shoes. Key features to look for include a snug fit, superior cushioning, breathability, and good traction.