My Experience With Shin Splints

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In my last post on shin splints I talked about why shin splints might be more of a problem than you might think.  Today I thought I would talk about my own experience with shin splints during the training for my half marathon to give it a more personal feel.  Maybe some of you will relate to my story.

How I Trained

My whole life I’ve had a little shin pain whenever I would start a new sporting season.  Every time I experienced this, the pain would go away in a couple weeks after my body got used to the stress and I would be fine for the rest of the season.  I never thought of it as being a big deal until I was training for my first half marathon last summer.

I made sure I was very careful with my training since I had never done a race that long before.  I did a decent base training before I started in on my specific half marathon training.  I did 4 months of base training followed by 4 months of race training using a running training application for program design that I like.  Then I just tweaked the program to work around my schedule.  The point is, I made sure I ramped up my training very slowly as to not increase mileage or speed too quickly.  This was my attempt at avoiding overuse injuries.

The Shin Pain Came Anyway

Unfortunately, about a month into the half marathon training, I started to develop shin pain.  I figured it would be just like all my other experiences with shin splints and it would go away over the course of a few training runs.  This time I was wrong!

The pain worsened over time and before I knew it I was in pain the entire length of my run.  I remember wishing for the run to be over with so my shin would stop hurting.  Then it started hurting even when I wasn’t running.  It hurt to go grocery shopping and to walk around at work.  There was even a very sore spot on my shin bone (tibia) if I pushed on it.  That’s when I knew that no matter how stubborn of an athlete I was, I had a problem that I had to address.

What I Did About It

I have a hard time slowing myself down because of an injury, just like every other athlete I know does, so I went and spoke with a sports medicine physician that I work with and told her what was going on.  Of course, she told me to stop running.  That’s what I expected her to say and I needed someone to say it to get me to stop.  It was very difficult to stop running when I was moving along in my training so well and I had a deadline that I had to be ready for.  There was no way I was going to miss the race.

So I stopped running.  I spent two weeks cross training on a bicycle instead because it didn’t hurt to ride a bike.  At the end of those two weeks, my shin didn’t hurt anymore when I walked around and it no longer hurt to push on the bone that used to be sore.

How I Got Back To Training

Now I was afraid that the pain would return as soon as I started back into my training.  So, first I went to an outdoor track to run a few miles and see how it felt.  I went there because I knew it was rubberized and it would be a little more forgiving on my shin than the road would be.  It’s also flat, so I wouldn’t have to deal with hills and road crests that could put more stress on my leg.  That first run back went okay so I did a few more runs on the track before heading out onto the road.

I also made sure I backed up a step when I went back to running.  I didn’t want to jump in with too much mileage coming off an injury so I went backwards a couple weeks in the training program.  The last thing I wanted was to have to take more time off because I didn’t treat my injury properly the first time.

In The End, It Worked Out

From there I was able to get back into the training.  I tweaked the program a little to make sure I would be ready for race day once I was sure that my shin wasn’t going to be a problem any longer.  I finished the training, which included one grueling 13.1 mile training run that went up the summit road of our local ski area, and went on to run my race two weeks later.  I was able to finish my race in less time than I had anticipated despite the torrential downpours that went on throughout the event.

Take Home Message

As you can see, you can take some time off to nurse an injury during training for a competition and still be able to compete on race day. People seem to think they can’t take any time off and still be successful.  I’m proof that this is wrong.  The problem with this way of thinking is that if you put off an injury like this and just keep training, it’s going to take a lot more time to heal than if you just take care of it as soon as it pops up.

If I had trained through my shin pain for the next three months until my race, I would most certainly have developed a stress fracture.  My race would have been very painful and I would have run a much slower time due to the pain.  After the race I would have probably ended up in a walking boot, on crutches, or both.  It would have taken much longer to heal and there would have been a bunch of time off from any exercise at all.

So next time you’re trying to train through an injury like shin splints, remember that a few weeks off early on is much better than months off from your sport if you put it off too long.  This concept applies to all kinds of injuries, so treat your body right and train safely.

Have any of you had an experience like this before?  If so, feel free to tell your story below.

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