My friend Boston is a physical therapist and she recently attended a continuing education course on running injuries. I was excited to hear what she learned, since so many of you have been asking about things like shin splints and other pain. So first, lawyer stuff: I’m not a doctor. If it hurts, go see a doctor.
Okay, so shin splints are apparently cause by not having well enough developed calf muscles. If you are experiencing shin splints, you need to be doing some calf workouts. Fortunately, these can be as simple as doing calf raisers while you brush your teeth. Which means literally going from flat foot to up on your tippy toes to back to your flat foot. It’s best if you belong to a gym and can use the calf-raiser machine there, since then you know you can increase the weight you are lifting, but if you don’t have a gym, start with toe raisers at home.
Another option is to get a pair of Earth shoes. The negative heel technology in the shoes works out your calves while you walk all day. It sounds hokey, but I had major hip pain last spring and once I got my Earth flip flops, the pain vanished. It was amazing. This is a particularly good option if you do a lot of walking during the day, like to work, or just around town.
For other injuries, or more importantly, injury prevention, cross training is key. Weight training is really important for preventing injury. Most of the knee problems that runners have are caused by the muscles around the knees being too weak, so you want to be doing exercises that build up leg muscles. I have heard that the most important exercises for developing leg muscles quickly are squats and lunges. You can do them with weights, or without, if you’re not up to the weights yet. Biking or spinning is actually really good cross training for running, and part of the reason that, in theory, triathletes should have a lower injury rate (they don’t, because they overtrain and are stupid). Yoga, which helps develop hip and leg muscles, is also good for this.
Another important thing to make sure you are getting in cross-training is plyometrics – any kind of jumping move is good for strength development and cross training. There is a reason that sports coaches teach this stuff.
What I got out of all of this was something that I already suspected. The 30-Day-Shred is an excellent tool for any athlete looking to avoid injury. I noticed when I started swimming more that when I slacked on 30-Day-Shred, I started having shoulder problems. It has plenty of lunges and squats to develop leg muscles, and a lot of plyometric/jump training type of moves as well. In addition, she focuses on the core, and having a strong core is also key to maximum performance and minimum injury.
So what have we learned? If you are experiencing shin splints, get thee to a calf-raise machine! Anyone have any other ideas? Suggestions for exercises?