Okay. There is no more room for denial. No more room for positive talk. No more room for “breathe in: strength; breathe out: weakness” imagery. No more room for “if I tell myself I am prone, I am just perpetuating the problem.” Face it. I have shin splints (sorry, that’s a pretty cheap link, and we all know I sort of hate RW). Mind-over-body exercises failed, and my body won.
My last major injury was in May 2010. I fractured a metatarsal during track season – literally while I was running sprints. You don’t mistake the sound (or feeling) of that crack for anything else. In addition, I have suffered many common “runner injuries” during my career: IT band syndrome, Achilles tendinosis, plantar fasciosis, posterior tibial tendinosis, and I never a pulled hammy but I have pulled a quad (twice). And 90% of the time I ran track, shin splints were a given.
Though the list above is lengthy, I haven’t suffered any major injuries since the stress fracture (errrr well… minus that weird calf strain early this summer). But I rarely get more than several weeks into a new training session without developing shin splints. My most dreaded injury. The inevitable onset.
My first serious encounter with shin splints was my freshman year of high school. I got them so badly (read: was a huge wuss) that I terminated my season early to drag my dad around for bone scans and X-rays in fear that I was developing stress fractures throughout my entire body (in hindsight, hysteria of that scale was definitely a huge waste of money – sorry, Dad). I even wore an air cast and skipped a day of school because my legs hurt too much to walk (there’s a good excuse, kids!).
Enter: prescription orthotics and stability shoes.
Well, I still got shin splints and became introduced to ALL OF THE ABOVE injuries.
After my stress fracture, I got crazy dedicated to PT. I credit that event as the “injury to end all injuries” because I became so focused on the bigger picture – working on overall stability instead of just doing lower leg drills. I also learned how to weight lift after discovering in physiology class that placing stress upon the connective tissues and bones makes them stronger (I think I actually lost sleep over what became a slightly obsessive need to lift like crazy to build the sturdiest skeleton ever). And it turns out that in the four years since the stress fracture, I have not had a single overuse injury.
Except shin splints.
When I worked at ZombieRunner, I threw away my orthotics and ditched the stability shoe. At the time, everyone was really into “minimal” footwear and learning how to manipulate running form to decrease injury risk, i.e. the forefoot strike and light, quick cadence. Well, as I mentioned in a previous post, for me that translated into “push off the ground using ONLY my calves!” which was a total recipe for disaster, culminating in the calf strain from this summer. Not to mention some of the worst shin splints I have ever had.
This year at Runners Roost, I learned how to assess a customer’s gait using a treadmill and a slow-motion video recording. The idea was to watch — up-close — the amount of over-pronation that occurred in each individual, and then to pull a stack of neutral shoes or stability shoes depending on his or her analysis. I performed the experiment on myself once, knowing since that first year of high school track that I am a lowly over-pronator. Trust me, it’s really awful to watch your own footage (no pun intended).
I ran the experiment (no pun intended) in three Brooks shoes: Ghost (neutral), Ravenna (guidance), and Adrenaline (stability), and to my dismay I learned that I over-pronated badly in ALL of them.
Yes, it was really hard to diagnose someone as an over-pronator and pull out the stability shoes after that. I also felt a huge sense of despair knowing that even if I wanted to surrender and go back to a stability shoe it wouldn’t help. I am going to get shin splits no matter what, no matter the shoe. There is nothing I can do. Maybe I can never run long distances when I am this prone to shin splints. In some ways, it was a devastating discovery.
Well then I went to PT for my calf strain and talked over the whole history with Craig. I said, “I won’t wear a stability shoe or an orthotic again – tell me what I can actually do.” And he was awesome! I’ve already covered it, I know. But his diagnosis makes a lot of sense to me: right-side dominance and calf-dominance have almost single handedly caused all of my running injuries – even offering explanation as to on which side of my body they occurred.
This summer was a huge success. I ran injury-free from the end of June to… recently. I adopted a new running form, and even though I occasionally lapsed into laziness with my exercises, it made a world of difference in holding off injury… until now.
Was it the mileage increase? Please don’t tell me that I will be stuck at 25 miles a week until the end of time. Is 29 MPW really too much to ask!? Is it the uneven dirt roads here at the ranch? Please don’t tell me that sticking to soft surfaces to reduce joint impact inadvertently caused too much strain on my lower legs. Maybe it’s all the hills. Is it the elliptical? Please don’t tell me that my saving grace in the cross-training world has been responsible all these years (truthfully, my shins have been feeling the most inflamed post-elliptical lately). Is it self-perpetuated by stress over getting shin splints? I believe in the negative power of stress, oh yes. After my stress fracture, I learned that all my time in the ATR before practice may have been partially responsible, because there is such thing as too much fussing and not enough relaxing. I certainly don’t award the theory full credit (helloooo pressure and overtraining), but I don’t shrug it off, either. Or… Am I just prone? I’ve overcome every other injury, why can’t I prevent this one?
One step back, two steps forward.
Gonna nip this in the bud.
No more running this week except for Long Run Sunday (slow and with good form). Next week is a scheduled Down Week anyway, but I am limiting runs to one easy + my single workout. Taking three days off and cross-training the remainder (my bike rack should get here too so I will gladly embark on a long ride). Ice bucket twice a day. Tissue floss my calves (I swear that tight calves are have something to do with the pulling and “ripping away” associated with shin splints). Prioritize my actual PT exercises over the broader menu of glute-strengthening work. Take a week off and not fret about it. What does one week matter in a year of training if it allows me to continue to progress healthily in the coming weeks? One week off is better than a month – or two.
I trust that I will be back to a full schedule in no time. As PT Craig reassured me, “a little tenderness along the medial tibia is no big deal,” so if I play my cards right I can reverse this quickly. Time to dwell in positivity. Breathe in: strength. Breathe out: bullshit shin splints.
I hope this is my last post on shin splints E V E R.