Sunday, January 23, 2011

Shin Splint!

I've been injury free for 15 months, so naturally it's difficult to accept that I would have any injury now that would be serious enough to keep me from running. Well. . .

Two Fridays ago, while doing an easy 6-miler on the treadmill I noticed some pain in my shin. I've never suffered from shin splints before (except for about 9 years ago when I ran on the beach barefoot) so I was surprised that suddenly my shins would hurt. The next day, I proceeded to run 15 miles outside and I only felt the shin pain slightly. On Monday of this week, I did a 10-miler outside, include 3 x 1-mile repeats and I barely felt the shin at all. I didn't even mention the issue in last week's blog because it was minor enough to ignore.

However, when returning to the treadmill on Tuesday due to the ice storm, I once again had shin pain. My theory is that this pain is being caused by the sudden introduction of the treadmill (I had been doing 100% of my runs outdoors up until December) and the new model of a Nike shoe which doesn't fit me as well as the previous model. But probably moreso the treadmill, because that's a more significant change. I said in a previous blog that one of my main reasons for not liking the treadmill is that it's so repetitive that I worry about overuse injuries. And Voila!

I went to the doctor on Thursday just so I could confirm the diagnosis and get a prescription for PT if I needed it. He agreed that it was shin splints and showed me some stretches and strengthening exercises. And of course told me to "back off" the running. He also suggested a compression sleeve which I blogged about over on the Pacers Ambassadors blog. I had been doing a lot of stretching, icing and foam rolling prior to seeing the doctor, but not the strengthening. The thing I've always wondered about strengthening exercises for injuries: does it really help with recovery, or does it just help prevent them in the future? I can't imagine that my muscles are going to benefit from the strengthening for at least a few weeks, so I don't see the exercising really speeding my recovery.

On Friday, I had six miles on tap, and given the "real feel" of 9 degrees due to the wind chill, I opted for the treadmill. The pain was the worst it had ever been. The run just sucked, and I stopped after five miles. Yesterday (Saturday) I was scheduled for 18 miles. It was only 20 degrees with a "real feel" in the teens whenever the wind blew, but I knew I had to brave it because the treadmill would be too painful.

During the first few miles I was very discouraged. Even though I was wearing my new compression sleeves and compression tights (and other pair of pants over that because it was so cold!), the shin hurt. It hadn't ever really hurt on an outside run in the past so I was upset. I couldn't be injured! I had gone 15 months without an injury! I'm doing everything right! I would have thought that my transition from running mainly on the treadmill to doing 100% of my runs outside would have caused an injury, but it didn't. Who would have thought that returning to the treadmill would have caused a problem!?

I started to think about how this would affect my goals. I had been showing signs of huge improvement over the past few months, and I think I was poised to run a marathon in the 3:30's, and set a PR at my next 5K about about 15-20 seconds. But with reduced mileage, then I don't know how likely these goals are for me. I would love to start pool running, but don't have access to an indoor pool. Maybe I will research that more, though.

Anyway, I thought that I would just throw in the towel and cut my 18-miler down to five. But once I got to about mile four, things felt better so I continued on. I was fighting a constant battle in my head: should I go home now and accept that I am injured and need to stop, or should I push through because I can? I kept running through neighborhoods that were close to my home, so I was only a mile or two away from my house at any given time. Eventually I compromised with myself. I did 11 miles, which would count as a "medium long" run in the training log. Also, the wind was picking up and my lips and face were starting to hurt.

I am facing the same dilemma right now. I had a five-mile recovery run on tap, but part of me thinks I should just take a rest day and be prepared for next week's 56 miles. However, I know that I won't be able to run outdoors for a good part of next week. On Monday morning, the temperatures will be in the teen's with a real-feel in the single digits. Yuck. On Wednesday, we're expecting snow, and I won't run in the dark if there is snow/ice on the ground. Do I opt for the treadmill and risk making the shin splint worse? Or do I settle for the boring (and not as effective) elliptical? I really do not like being in this position!


  1. I'm going to add you to the pool running group on FB, a few of the girls are meeting at noon at Washington Lee today for a pool run, do it for 50 minutes and count that as your recovery run would be my suggestion! A day or two off the pounding can make a big difference. I'm no doctor, but as a toe runner, I get shin splints often. Usually the culprit is tight calves, I have a Pro-Tec Athletics Night Splint, I'm pretty sure they have them at Pacers, def RRS. It's supposed to help tendonitis & Plantar, but for me, I put them on when I go to bed and usually an hour or two in them and no more shin splints, it gets the calf all stretched out. Usually it doesn't feel like it's the calves, but it works. I just switched to the kinvaras full time and have been having some shin splints for the last week. I did the splint Friday night and 14 miles, no shin pain at all, there's something to it. I hope you find out what it is!!

  2. I am so sorry you're joining our ranks, but yes, definitely join us at the pool. There are actually quite a few indoor pools that should be available to you, with hours that make it entirely feasible to hit the pool before or after work. I can fill you in via FB message.

    Also, I think the exercises can help, both from a healing standpoint, and preventative. The exercises will encourage blood flow in the correct places, and also preserve your range of motion.

  3. Yes, come to the pool today! We have a good crew, and most of us do it as recovery even when we're not injured. As for injury, just look at Christina for an amazing example of how you can train 100% in the pool without losing anything. Even if you just subbed your treadmill runs for the pool (not just recovery/easy, can do intervals, tempo, etc. too), you'd be in great shape!

    See you in a bit!

  4. Dash- I would love to join you at Washington Lee. I'll send you a FB message asking for details. It's kind of a hike for me, but worth it. Thanks for the night splint suggestion, maybe I can stop by Pacers on the way to the pool and get one.

    Cristina- I did just find a pool near me that has deep water. I looked at their schedule online and it was difficult to tell if the deep water would be open for pool running in the mornings so I am going to call them when they open.

    Amy- Thanks! I will try to make it today!

  5. I agree with Cris about strengthening exercises helping with recovery. I also found that they made me feel better when I was recovering from peroneal tendinitis.

    I think a lot of injuries can be handled by taking time off immediately and just doing xt that doesn't stress the injury for 3-6 days.

  6. Pool running FTW! Great to meet you - I'm usually there Sunday afternoon and Wednesday evenings! Hope it helped things calm down!

  7. My sports doctor said to "proceed w/ the pain scale" when doing strengthening exercises. If you can do them pain-free then do them. If something hurts, modify or hold off totally. I started my exercises immediately but wasn't able to do the prescribed weight/reps at first. Use your body as your guide. :) And... one or two days off at this point is WAY better than being sidelined totally. Heal quickly!

  8. Katie- I was really glad to see you there! I wish we could have chatted more.

    LA Runner- Thanks for the advice. The exercises aren't too strenuous, I am basically just resisting my other foot, and/or using a doorway to resist. I kept thinking of your swim dress as I was getting ready to go to the pool!

  9. Hi Elizabeth! I love your blog. I found it when I was searching for info on Runner's World about Patellar Tendonitis. I'm going through it now and it's just awful I'm wondering how you were able to get over it so quickly. Any advice and tips would be greatly appreciated!!!

  10. Know all about injuries... I will say that just before I did about a 5 mile trail run and went as hard as I could... no issues!! I can still feel it but it didn't get any worse. I won't be doing it much but given it was 70° and the dewpoint was in the low to mid 40s, I felt if I was going to push myself at all, better to do such before the heat and humidity come back in a few days!!