Monday, October 21, 2013

Argh, shins!

When I started running, I thought shin and calf pain was just part of the game. It hurt bad. Every single run, from start to finish.  My calves were tight, and would burn when running.  I'd stop several times on my 20-30 min runs to stretch them out.  I'm sure the shin pain was linked, and I'm also sure I should not have just run through them.  But then there was the glorious day where I ran and it didn't hurt. I was amazed at how wonderful running could be without pain.  I finally realized that, in fact, pain was not just a normal part of running (though how often we run through it!).

Since then, I have had shin pain off and on.  It plagued me, along with patellofemoral syndrome, through my first half marathon.  It came back with my first marathon. Then it has mostly been at bay.  Occasionally my shins "talk" to me, but never a lengthy thing. I chalked my recovery up to have a good base, which I still believe to be true.

As mentioned a zillion times already, it was hard to come back from losing my base this past year, and shin splints were one of the injuries along the way.  I never really purposefully rested with them, just toned it back a bit (though the lack of motivation might be more at play than my thoughtful recovery plan) and started using compression sleeves.  By the time of IMWI, they were a non-issue.

In Milwaukee, I went for a run, and had some right (always the bad one) shin pain. Then yesterday I went for a run again, this time with my calf sleeves, and the pain started right away. I thought I'd run a bit, as it sometimes subsides with a good warmup.  A mile in, and no change.  ARGH!! Today it is sore just walking. 

A few issues are to blame.
1) Still don't have a good base. Consistency has been poor in running, and it matters so much. That is why it is so frustrating that to recover, you really must take some time off, since this causes that base to further deteriorate.
2) Tight calves. My calves are ridiculously tight. I have a rocker stretcher and man, do I feel it. Gastroc, soleus, posterior tib, all of them. I need to get on a good stretching regimen ASAP. For those unaware, these muscles actually insert on that bone that hurts with shin splints. They give it a nice tug when tight, and can really cause that pain.
3) Weight. Wait, wait, don't tell me- being heavier is bad for your body! I was reviewing some old notes today and found that a 1 lb increase in body weight is 4 lbs more of force on your knees. Ouch. I am about 20 lbs heavier than I was at my last marathon two years ago. And yes, I'm working on that, but in the meantime, that is a whole lot more pounding on my legs.  At the grocery store I bought a 3 lb bag of onions. Then I thought that I've gained almost 7 of those. I felt like writing an apology letter to my legs.  On the flip side, a 3 lb bag is significant, as well as an achievable weight loss goal. I hope that I will feel better as I take incremental bits off. 
4) Running shoes. Early in the summer I had a total panic attack in Fleet Feet when I found out the Asics Foundations, which I've worn for years, have been discontinued. I'm now in Asics Kayanos with SuperFeet inserts (copper) and know that they don't control my love for pronation as well as the Foundations do. I am still confident I can run successfully in them, as I resolved my shin pain wearing them over the summer. It is just one more contributing factor at the time being.
5) Fancy Shoes. At the conference last week, I was wearing my "fancy" shoes. The quotes are because to anyone else, they wouldn't be fancy. They are flats because I fall in anything remotely resembling a heel. But they lack an arch support and have no cushioning. They aren't my running shoes which I wear pretty much all the time.  While there are arguments to more minimal support, I am firmly in the camp of, at least for me, I need support or we're in trouble.
5) Other weak areas.  Overall, I have pretty good running form.  I don't really think about it, but I've been told on several occasions that it is good. Yes, as a PT I should be more aware of my form, but however perfect it may be, I am aware of my weaknesses.  My core is pathetic. My hips are weaker than your grandma's. My single limb balance is atrocious. I am a hamstring dominant runner to the point where my glutes might as well not exist. How much these issues contribute, I'm not sure.  But they can definitely cause malalignment, especially since I'm a pronator, and increase forces my poor legs are taking up.

So there you have it, I can diagnose my problem, I'm just not a compliant patient.  I obviously need to be stretching my calves like crazy and doing core work.  I also need the day to have a few extra hours in it.

My plan for now is to really let these shins calm down. I will then rebuild my base. Slowly. Consistency is key, but it can be in the flavor of 20 minute runs and build from there.  My original training plan had me start the Endurance Nation Outseason plan this coming Monday. After asking the coach about my situation with shins that might not behave well with high intensity running, things are going to shift. I will now do a bike focus plan as I build up my running, and start the Outseason in January. Ah, what they say about plans...

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