Fear of shin splints

by Barbara

I signed up for a 10K in July because two of my daughters are doing it and it seems fun. I’m 63, and walking is easy! I also play golf and play pickleball when I don’t have to work. A few times in the past couple years, I’ve started running (because I”ve lost weight and feel super energetic, and it seems like I can almost fly!), but after one or two runs my shins would be on fire. What can I do to prevent that? Is there a not-quite-couch to 10K program you know of?


Nicole's reply:
Hi Barbara, sorry that you are having problems with your shins especially when it sounds like you are on a roll with your running!.

Shin splints are not uncommon in runners, especially new, inexperienced runners and older female runners. It tends to happen when your bone and muscles in your lower legs become irritated and stressed due to overuse. If you are an older runner and who might have an element of osteoporosis then this can also exacerbate the issue.

In terms of prevention, I would first concentrate on healing your shins and not making them worse. Cut back your running for a week or two until you feel that your shins are less sore. Then try a short gentle run for around 20 minutes and see how that feels. Ice your shins afterwards. You might find it takes from 2 to 8 weeks to feel pain free.

Other things to try include:

Increase your stride frequency. Take shorter, faster steps so that there is less stress on your tibia (shin bone).

Do some calf and shin muscle strengthening exercises. For example, stand with your feet hip-width apart and then slowly raise up onto your toes, hold for a second and then lower your heels back to the floor. Build up to 20 repeats and do this a couple of times a day.

When you are healed, don't increase your running activity level by more than 10% each week and then every third week, make it a slightly easier week so that your body has time to recover. Also don't forget full rest days during the week IE don't run every day!

Check your running shoes for wear and tear. If you are not sure, go to a running store and get some professional advice. Choosing running shoes.

In terms of a training plan, if you are already following a couch to 10k plan, I would stick to that for now or at least until your shin splints are sorted. After that you could think about adapting the plan to your level. However don't rush it. If this is your first 10k just think about finishing it and enjoying it and don't worry about the time or pace you do it in.

Best of luck and I hope the race goes well!

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