Have you ever felt a pain in your calves that felt like your bone was hitting against your muscle? Every step you would take, running or walking, you would feel that sharp pain. It stinks, right?
This is how I personally can describe the pain of shin splints to someone. Every single time I would go out for a run, it was always frustrating when I felt that pain in my calves. I worked with my athletic trainer to at least help lessen the pain so that I could still continue with my cross country training. Eventually, with a lot of patience, I was able to get rid of the pain completely, and even if the pain came back, I knew how to take care of it.
Here are 6 tips I can offer that have helped me:
Foam Roll and Ice
Before and after a workout (and you have probably heard this multiple times), it is absolutely crucial to warm up and cool down to prevent injuries. For me, besides stretching, I also foam roll and ice. A foam roller is the equivalent to a massage therapist. Personally, it feels like HEAVEN when I use it. Whatever spots I feel any tightness or soreness is massaged away thanks to the foam roller!
Okay, it may sound like I'm in love with my foam roller, but you get the idea that it is an amazing invention! I recommend for 30-45 seconds to foam roll your calves, shins, hamstrings, quads, hips, and back.
Another amazing "invention" (that also feels like heaven when you use it!), is ice! Ice helps to numb the pain away after feeling sore from a workout. While this tip is obvious, I recommend taking an ice cube first and rubbing it all over your legs, arms, neck, face, stomach, basically everywhere! Why? Well, first of all, it feels amazing, especially after a hot run! Secondly, it helps to start the healing process with your muscles. Instead of throwing on a freezing cold ice pack (which will definitely be a shock for your muscles!), ease into it first with an ice cube.
If you have access to one, I also recommend an ice water bath. Fill a tub with ice cold water and soak your legs in. It probably doesn't sound like fun, given you are submerging yourself in freezing cold water, but I promise that bath actually starts to turn into something you look forward to after a workout!
Biking: Your Shins will THANK YOU!
The pounding of your feet on the ground does not help your shins one bit. Very simply, I suggest biking. It takes the pressure off your legs, and you will still benefit from this workout pain-free.
Trust me, your shins will thank you for this one.
Change Surface Terrain
Pointing out the obvious here: concrete road is a hard surface, grass, sand, mud are a softer surface. But, this is important, because always running on a hard surface will do you more damage than good. Changing where you run, a beach, a dirt trail, a grassy field, will help to prevent your calves from tightening up running on concrete road consistently. Plus, it's always fun to explore new places on a run!
In my first two years of running Cross Country, more emphasis on running was made rather than strength training. Because of this, while we all were fast and strong runners, we had issues of injuries. This past year, with a new coach who had a very different style from the previous, made an equal emphasis on both running and strength training.
Personally, I would like to make the same emphasis. While being able to run long distances is important in Cross Country, strength training is also just as important. Strength training will obviously not only help you build muscle and get stronger, but also faster, and EVEN BETTER: prevent injuries!
Change Your Shoes and Foot Care
Your shoes last only for so long. If you run a lot of mileage, chances are you will have to replace your shoes more often. Personally, I change mine every 3-4 months. Your shoes will wear out, and eventually will not give you the support you need. I also recommend sticking with the same type of shoe that is most comfortable to you. Each shoe has a different function. Some may provide more support than others. If you go from one shoe that provides a lot of stability to not, that will have a negative impact on you. Sticking with one type of shoe that works for you and that you trust is the best route to go.
Another point I would like to stress is your feet do so much for you than just your workouts! Walking, doing errands, whatever the activity, your feet are always involved. It's something that I feel we may take for granted. So give a little love to your feet by moisturizing them, cleaning them, massaging them, etc. It's a way of thanking them for all that they do for you! And they'll thank you too!
I have been seeing these being used more and more commonly over time, and chances are you will see me wearing them as well! It may not work for everyone, which is totally fine, because I encourage you to find what works for you! For me personally, these are MAGICAL! I get asked anywhere I go when I'm wearing them if they work, and I always answer with a big YES!
If you don't know what these are, compression sleeves are basically sleeves for your calves that you slide on. These are amazing to wear during a workout as well as after to help with recovery. I wish I could explain what these compression sleeves actually do, but that's the magic about them! You slide them on, and just let these little "miracle workers" work their magic!
Unfortunately, it takes time for shin splints to go away. These tips I gave, if they don't make the pain go away completely, it will AT THE VERY LEAST lessen it. Staying consistent in taking care of them is also key. I know it's hard to be patient, but I promise your hard work will pay off in the end. I had a lot of problems with my shins in the past, and today I'm happy to say I have gotten rid of the pain through these tips listed. I admit, there are moments the pain comes back, BUT, I know what to do.
I encourage you to find what works for you, and I hope these tips can help you too! Every athlete deserves to play at their very best! Besides, isn't that what you train for anyway?