Dealing with “Shin Splints”

Getting the infamous “Shin Splints” can feel like a death sentence for running. But don’t stress yourself out or get depressed. With thought and care, as well as having some patience, you can help get yourself onto your feet again and continue running.


Shin splints can feel like they come out of absolutely nowhere, ready to ruin your day. But sometimes even experienced runners will end up with shin soreness, and it can come happen because of numerous different reasons.

  • Having inappropriate footwear can be a common culprit. Or, in my case, my running shoes were too old, and had gradually changed shape over the years, and grown to be unsuitable for running.
  • If you’re suddenly running too much and too often before you have settled into a routine, this can be another offender. Doing too much too fast can cause stress on your legs as well as your shins.
  • Running on surfaces that are too hard, or too uneven can also cause stress on your shins.
  • If you have had a previous irritation or soreness in your shins, and haven’t rested for enough time, this can also cause you to run the risk (Wordplay!) of getting yourself a bad case of shin splints.
  • It can be also be caused by tripping whilst running, or a sudden awkward jolt.
  • Sometimes it can be an unrelated injury to running and may be due to your line of work.

Overall, there are a variety of factors. Sometimes it may just be one, sometimes it’s a collection of different things working against you. But this isn’t always the end, and there are several things you can do to help yourself out.


But before all that – what are shin splints? If you’ve had shin splints before, you will know the uncomfortable and sometimes very painful feeling of what it’s like to have them. It can literally feel like you’ve been kicked hard in the shin and can really affect your mobility. From personal experience, I started developing shin splints but was too adamant that it was just some mild soreness, and even ended up limping for a while since I did not stop running.

The pain itself will mostly cover your shin area – and can be painful on either your left or right sides, or even both. But it can also be characterised by pain in the lower inner side of your shin closer to your foot. It’s worth being careful if you are feeling a little bit sore in these areas after a run, and to be careful. The next day, it could have escalated and worsened.

There isn’t really a “quick fix” for shin splints. Some people are lucky and can get over them in a few days, but these people are lucky. If you have a particularly bad case of shin splints, it can take weeks or even months to fully recover, or you risk injuring yourself further. However, some methods that are used when tackling these issues are:

  • Applying ice to the affected area before and/or after you’ve run, if you are feeling pain or soreness. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Rest up! Don’t push yourself or try to do any strenuous activities. Lay off running if you are in pain, give yourself a rest.
  • If your shoes are not appropriate, consider seeing a specialist or someone with experience and get a better suited pair of running shoes that can accommodate. For example, if you are flat footed, this may be a good choice. Also, we all run slightly differently, which can mean some of us may be more likely to cause ourselves injury and getting a well fitted and balanced pair of running shoes can combat this.
  • Stretching! I have personally found that stretching every day, even if I don’t run on that day, is absolutely key. However, don’t overdo it or perhaps avoid this for a little while if you are in a lot of pain.

Now, there are several different stretches that you can do that can help you relieve and strengthen your shins. Some may find that some stretches will work better than others for certain people.

  • Sit with your leg straight: press your toes on the injured leg downwards with the other foot or pull down with your hand, hold for 10 seconds and gently let go.
  • Kneel down with the top of your foot flat on the floor. Gently sit back on your heels until you are feeling the pulling sensation and hold for 10 seconds and carefully move yourself off your heels. (Best done on a soft mat or carpet.)
  • Straight leg raises: lie down on your back and extend the injured leg slightly into the air and hold for 5-10 seconds, then gently bring it back down and repeat.
  • Quadriceps stretches: standing on your uninjured leg, carefully raise your injured leg with your left or right arm towards your buttocks and gently pull your toes until you feel the stretch, and hold for 5-10 seconds, and then lower.
  • If you can, wall squats are also a good stretch to try. Carefully position yourself against a wall and slide down into a squatting position resembling being sat on an invisible chair, and hold for as long as is comfortable, but don’t overdo it. Make sure your arms are at your side rather than on your lap to reduce stress on your legs.
  • If you have some steps, going up one step and back down can be a good stretch to practice as long as you have the appropriate equipment.
  • If you have some resistance bands, a good stretch to try is to put part of it around the injured leg, and if you have some strong enough and sturdy enough to put the other end of the resistance band around, place it on it. Then, gently pull the injured leg in the opposite direction. This can be done in numerous directions to stretch the entirety of the muscle and can also be done with the other end tied around the unaffected leg, if you are confident enough.
  • A simple and effective stretch that I found to be incredibly useful and can be done nearly anywhere, consists of being either sat on a chair or on the floor, and with the injured leg, extend it as much as possible without causing too much strain, and stretch to try and bring your toes to point inwards towards yourself for a few seconds, and then relax your foot again, and repeat as necessary. I found this stretch particularly useful as I work in an office and was able to do it causally.
  • Simple calf raises are also useful. Simply stand normally, and then gently stand on your tip toes for a few seconds, and then lower yourself back down and repeat as needed.

Overall, shin splints can be conquered. But this can sometimes take a lot of time and patience to fully recover from. It’s important to listen to what your body is telling you, and to rest as and when needed, and maybe don’t start fastening up your laces if you are still in some pain. I am by no means an expert runner, and there is a lot of advice out there that is all very good and reliable, but I have found that trying all these methods helped me on the road to recovery. I spent several months running before I encountered shin splints, and it took me a while to recover and to find out what methods of recovery worked for me. If you’re experiencing shin splints, soreness or leg pain for a prolonged amount of time, it is best to either consult the NHS webpage, or book yourself in with your GP for a consultation in case it’s another or more serious issue. You want to win the war, not just the battle. Don’t start running until you feel better!

2019 – New Year, New Challenges.

It’s been a while since my last post, and I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been super busy writing, but that’s not entirely true.


The last stretch of 2018 was busy, working, seeing relatives, eating like a pig, etc. It’s frustrating that I’ve not been keeping to my workout routines, or my running, but December is a month that tests all of us in lots of different ways. For me, it resulted in working more and comfort eating and seeing as many people as I could over the busy holiday period.

But I knew that once it was new year, I would do the typical “New Year, New Me” crap that everyone loves to do. I also knew, that I was a secret weapon to kick-start the process for myself. And it was cruel.

I’d signed up for the Garstang 10k Run, which I had not trained for whatsoever since November, and even then, my training was beginning to slip up, as was my diet. (My birthday is in November, I’m not made of stone.)

I’d been dreading it. I considered dropping out, and telling myself that I should do little runs, train up for the next one, whenever that comes around. (I am also going to sign up for the Manchester 10k Run too, so I have another running goal for the summertime!) But, I felt a bit like if I gave up, I’d ending up beating myself up about it relentlessly, and maybe even sink further into a rut over it. I would end up moping around about it, and fall into a little spiral, and it would take a huge blow to my self-confidence. So screw it, I went for it. I signed up to it, I should make sure I run it, right?

So I ran it yesterday. (On a cold, wet, windy and pretty horrid Sunday morning.) I wasn’t feeling at all confident at first. I was worried about my breathing, my legs, and how hilly the run would be, and I was right to be worried about all three. But, I just went for it. I didn’t go crazy and push myself too far. (I did almost have to have a tactical throw-up about 400 metres from the finish, which was a new and horrible sensation.)

But I finished. It was one of the worst 10k runs for me ever, only due to the amount of times I felt queasy whilst running, and the weather was pretty poor. But I felt amazing about myself afterwards. (aside from some chaffing – No, no I won’t go into it.) And whilst I’m hobbling around a bit today as a result, I feel pretty good about myself.


Okay, so far this whole first post back is just seems like me patting myself on the back, and okay, I am a little bit. But I don’t do it often, and I did come out the other end feeling incredibly motivated and encouraged for the rest of this year. I just need to keep that ball rolling, and don’t let it slow down too much.


But, writing and running, whilst both require a lot of self motivation, are completely different. I’m still a little worried about getting into the full swing of writing as much as I can, as often as I can. I need to find the same kind of motivation that I had in regards to running and apply it to my writing. I still want to keep this blog active, even if it’s only me reading it. (That and some of my friends who’re nice enough to let me bug them to read it!) But it’s going to be a new challenge.

If anyone has any advice for what personally helps to motivate them to sit down and start typing, especially if you’re trying to juggle things around as so many writers are so often doing, feel free to speak up!

Here’s to 2018, and hopefully a successful 2019. 


 

Quit the habit. Get a better one.

I loved smoking. I didn’t care about the cost or the effect it would have on my body and mental health, I simply enjoyed it. Nothing like having a few drinks with friends and then stepping out for a quick cig, especially if you have one or two friends who’re like-minded and want to have a smoke too. The nicotine rush, and just general sense of relief that you got from a few good puffs.

Eventually though, I felt like I had no energy, other than to crawl down the stairs and go out for a cigarette and dredge myself back up the steps in my flat back and then try to catch my breath. I’m 25, I shouldn’t be going up two flights of stairs and then have catch my breath back, I’m not an old man yet. It made me think about when I was bit younger, and I barely drank, never smoked, and used to go running a few times a week. How I’d run for charities, improved gradually, and had that runner’s high.

I quit smoking on a dare of sorts. At work, talking with a colleague, I started to roll a cig on my break, getting ready for that comforting ritual of going outside to have a nice puff, to help me get through the rest of my shift. My friend turns to me and says, “You’re never going to be able to give those up.” But it was a bit more of a passing comment, at least that’s how it felt. Sure, people had said similar things to me before, but this time it felt different. Maybe it was just all the feelings I’d had recently had snowballed into something I was comfortable with, or maybe it was just the last straw. So, I rolled a final cig, and saved it for after my shift, and threw the bag of tobacco away in front of them and swore it would be my final one.

Naturally, none of them believed me. They waved it off as me being emotional and silly, and that I’d be back to puffing clouds out in no time. But I didn’t. The first week was by far the hardest overall. I went through some of the typical withdrawals. Aggravation. Frustration. Sadness. But I remembered why I was doing it, and that there were infinitely more benefits to quitting than to continuing. I would (and did) save money, between £40-£60 a month. I did get a bad cough but turns out that’s pretty much standard procedure when you’ve quit smoking, and that too subsided.

The hard part was controlling my mood. On one hand I was already quite pleased with myself, but it was having a mental toll. I didn’t smoke loads, but I smoked at certain times of the day to relax, and it had become part of my routine, which was hard to crack.

But after a week or so, I decided to take the initiative. I dug up my old running trainers, downloaded a running app to my phone, and decided to run 2 kilometers. And let me tell you, it was absolute hell. I was spluttering, poorly paced, could barely control my breathing at all. But, I did manage to run 2k. Maybe not in a good time, but I achieved what I wanted to do. And afterwards, I had a shower, and relaxed, feeling somewhat accomplished with myself.

And it didn’t end there. Over the next few weeks I kept on top of it. Only running reasonably short distances at first, but I managed to get control of my breathing. Running became slightly easier. My pace quickened slightly with each new week. I got that runner’s high again and again. And it was the hottest summer we’ve had in a while in England, so it was hard work on some days. But I didn’t let it bother me. (Truth be told it was kind of glorious running in the sun with no clouds in sight.) Some of my friends who had started running found out that I was at it again, and showed nothing but support, and we started running together every Wednesday in different locations. I signed up to Park runs, that were held every Saturday at local parks, typically 5k. I decided to improve my diet too, eating more fish, having more home-cooked food, eating more fruit and veg, all that typical stuff that comes with feeling better through exercise. (Although, I didn’t feel the need to announce all this to the world whilst I was doing it, I’m a bit personal about these kinds of things. Besides, I was doing it for me!)

My friends convinced me to sign up to run the Preston 10k in late September. I’d run 10k runs before, but it had been years since I’d done that. But since I was running between 3-5 times a week, I felt confident.

A couple of months later, I felt like a different person. I wouldn’t run out of breath. My legs seemed to change almost overnight, they were muscly again. My face cleared up massively, and I didn’t get spots anywhere near as much as I had when I was smoking. My mood was unquestionably better. Having a steady flow of endorphins going through me was doing wonders. I even started to do other little workouts, maybe not as intense as running, but I thought what’s the harm in doing some more?

Fast forward to September. Unfortunately, I’d overdone it with training, and injured my right foot, and was limping for near enough 2 weeks. So sadly, my routine had come to a grinding halt. And once my foot started to get better, I came down with a bad cold. Once I got past that, I only had 1 week left to get some training in. What little training I got in wasn’t ideal, since I was still suffering a cough. I began to feel nervous about the big run but tried to focus on all the training I had done beforehand.

Race day. Nearly 2,000 people in attendance for the run itself, not the biggest 10k I’d been to, but still a lot of people. This didn’t bother me too much, since I just get into my own headspace when I start running, and don’t think about an awful lot apart from focusing on my breathing, and just moving forward. When the race started, once I got to the 4k mark, it became quite clear that I should’ve done more hill training. I didn’t think there would be so many! Okay, some weren’t huge, but I trained on flat and even surfaces and focused on endurance. I didn’t manage to get the whole way running at one single pace, as some of the hills took it out of me. In all honesty, I was aiming to try and finish in just shy of under an hour. That didn’t happen. I wasn’t far off and achieved my fastest time for any 10k I’d ever done, completing it in 1 hour 4 minutes.

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*Proof! I look and felt pretty knackered at this point. But with the end in sight, you go for it.*

First thing I did afterwards was hobble into the nearest Wetherspoons and order a pint of one of my favourite pints of ale. I felt fantastic. I hadn’t gotten the time I wanted, but it didn’t matter that much. I felt and still do feel confident that I’ll be able to do it in under an hour, and I’ve already signed up to the Garstang and Manchester 10k as a motivator!

I still miss smoking. Maybe not every day, but there are definitely days that test my will. Sometimes even just walking past someone smoking or if I’m just stood with someone having a smoke, it’s enough to set off that deep feeling inside that suddenly yells out for a quick puff. Just one. No one has to know. But I would know! It’s a slippery slope. I’ve thankfully not had any slip ups since I quit, and I’m hoping it stays that way. Running has helped a lot. Okay, it doesn’t quite satisfy the feelings I have when I’m having a craving, but the endorphins sure as hell help. Running has been a tough journey, and it’s hard to always remain motivated, but reminding myself why I quit always spurs me on, even if it’s only a little bit. It’s been a weird transformation over the past few months, since I’ve officially been smoke-free for over 4 months and been running for about 3. I’ll keep it going with both, but I can appreciate there’s going to be good days and hard days when dealing with both my urges to smoke and when I must run. But remembering why you started all this in the first place is the best way to keep moving forward.