Simple Strategies To Prevent Shin Splints

Simple Strategies To Prevent Shin Splints

Last week, I presented a video and discussed the difference between shin splints and stress fractures.  That video reviews in detail the differences, which is really important because the treatment is so different and it’s possible for shin splints to lead to a stress fracture if not treated properly.

One of the root causes of shin splints is a muscle imbalance in leg with calf muscles being much stronger than muscles that surround the shin (tibia).  Because these muscles are under developed with beginner runners and athletes like weight lifters who try to run, shin splints are very common.

The following video provides 3 easy exercises that should be regularly completed to help prevent shin splints.

Other strategies to help prevent shin splints include:

1) Avoid or at least minimize running on hard surfaces, instead opt for softer surfaces like crushed gravel or well worn dirt trails.
2) Run in shoes that aren’t worn down.  The general rule of thumb is to replace running shoes between 350 – 500 miles.  Take a look at the soles and if they’re showing signs of wear, replace your shoes.  Even if the soles aren’t worn down, the inserts inside will be after about 350 – 500 (tops).
3) Give yourself enough time to recover from long and/or hard workouts.  Go easy and try to stay on softer surfaces after putting a lot of stress on your legs.
4) Stay at a healthy weight.  This will also help avoid or minimize many other running related injuries to the knees, hips, back, etc.

The following video is a short view, but I’m sure you’ll find it to be very informative with exercises you can start doing immediately.

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Difference Between Shin Splints & Stress Fractures

Difference Between Shin Splints & Stress Fractures

Shin splints are very common with beginner runners. Both shin splints and stress fractures are considered overuse injuries. They are both very painful, but the treatment protocol for these injuries are very different.

A shin splint is an inflammation of the tissue running along the shin bone, whereas a stress fracture is a very small crack or group of cracks that form in the bone itself.  Typically, a stress fracture shows itself as pain in a specific location along your shin.  Shin splints tend to hurt as you rub your finger/thumb along the shin.  Often, shin splints hurt a lot when you wake up, whereas a stress fracture won’t.

This video goes into great detail discussing the differences between both injuries.  The treatment of a stress fracture and start with a boot.  Non impact exercise may be allowed (bike, eliptical, swimming).  I strongly recommend consulting with your Doctor for a full recovery plan.

My youngest son experienced a stress fracture last year.  He was not able to run for 10 weeks.

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[Case Study] I ditched my GPS watch while training for a half marathon, here’s how I finished

[Case Study] I ditched my GPS watch while training for a half marathon, here’s how I finished

Vancouver Lake 1/2 Marathon

Have you heard of training by feel, running with your inner GPS or simply training without a GPS watch? They’re basically the same, but I had never tried this strategy myself, until the last 5+ months. Last Sunday, I crossed the finish line of the Vancouver Lake Half Marathon and I saw the finishing time of my run for the first time since last September. In this article, I will briefly tell you what I learned, how I trained and the results of my race.

Training With a GPS Watch or Electronic Stopwatch

Since 2010, I’ve religiously tracked every run that I completed outside. I uploaded runs to my Garmin Connect, Polar Flow or Strava Accounts. Prior to 2010, I used a simple digital stop watch (traditional Casio) and documented the results in a log book. I was never obsessed with my times, but I would compare similar workouts from year-to-year.The GPS watch was merely to ensure I was following the assigned workout paces. I wasn’t typically concerned about distances, since I’ve been running in/around my town for the last 19 years, I know the approximate distances.

Running By Feel

In Matt Fitzgerald’s book: RUN – the mind-body method of running by feel, he provides numerous reasons to ditch the gadgets and listen to our body. The biggest reason to run by feel, as opposed to increasing/decreasing your pace mid run, based on what you see on your GPS watch, is that how you feel during runs is the most reliable indicator of how well the training process is going. Many who run without a GPS watch claim that it reduces performance pressure and can help prevent injury, because when they make adjustments to their pace based on how they feel, they’re not over-extending themselves. Instead, they’re actually working within a smart, yet challenging, training zone.

So, if you feel good during a run, you’re likely fit. In general, the more fit you are, the better you will typically feel during your runs. Now, I understand that if one was running slow, they may feel good, but that doesn’t mean that they’re fit. So, let’s assume you need to be running at what is a fairly quick pace (within your abilities) and then determine how you feel. Ultimately, the only way to get fit is to work hard, which likely means you’ll end up suffering through some workouts.

Remove the Watch To Create A Positive Mindset and Momentum

Momentum in running, occurs primarily in training and can take the form of a period of improving fitness. In many articles and interviews, it’s apparent that even the most confident athletes know that they do not have complete control over every situation. They are aware that their success often depends on the situation shaping itself to their benefit. Why not remove the watch from the equation and simply run by feel where you can create both a positive mindset and momentum.

In my experience, with runners I coach, the most effective way to manage their fitness/fatigue balance is to tell them to pay attention to how they feel. When they don’t feel good, regardless of the time/pace on their watch, we must must determine whether it’s because of lack of fitness or excessive fatigue. If it’s lack of fitness, we can correct this with more hard work. However, excessive fatigue should be corrected by more rest, which also could mean simply slowing the pace of the workout and upcoming workouts.

Another term for running by feel is “using your inner GPS.”  Some coaches, like McMillan, have written extensively about calibrating your inner GPS, so I won’t get into the details in this post.  It’s important to understand that inner GPS training or running by feel should not take the place of traditional time/distance-based training.  At least not until you have a lot of experience running by feel. I recommend that if you want to run a time like 1hr 59 minutes for ½ marathon, you better know exactly that pace.

Heart Rate Monitor

If you don’t feel completely comfortable about ditching a gadget, an alternative to using a GPS watch is using a heart rate monitor.  You’ll still need the watch, but you can just adjust it so you only see your heart rate.  One could make a sound argument that this is technically running by feel.  Instead of running at preassigned paces that you monitor with your watch, when you train with a heart rate monitor, you simply adjust your pace by keeping your heart rate within a specified zone. This is why this is also referred to as zone training.  I discuss how to train using a heart rate monitor in an article I wrote a few years ago.

Need Marathon Training Info

My 5 Month Challenge of Training without a watch

What started out as just running my base/easy mileage without the watch, soon turned into 5+ months of not tracking my times or pacing for any training run. The majority of my runs were on the road, some were on hotel treadmills.  Typically the treadmill runs were 4 – 5 miles at an easy/conversation pace (low 7s) and an elevation of 1.5 – 2 degrees.  Duration of my treadmill runs were 30 – 40 minutes. Over the first 3 months I usually ran 18 – 30 miles per week at an easy or conversation pace.  I don’t know for sure the pace of any runs, but for the last 5+ years, I’ve been able to easily complete 6 mile runs between 46 – 48 minutes.

To a large extent, due to my many years of experience of being a long distance runner, my inner GPS has been calibrated.  I’m confident that I was probably running the majority of my runs at 7:45 – 8:15/mile pace.  As you can see below, I also completed a few faster/tempo paced runs of 5-6 miles. On a weekly basis I would also get to the track to complete strides to keep my legs moving faster.

Since last September, while I completed my base or foundation training, I also performed 2 – 3 different CrossFit workouts per week. The CrossFit consisted of 45 minute High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) with a variety of challenging body weight exercises. I also regularly completed a 45 minute routine where I would rotate between 1 minute on a stationary bike at a controlled to vigorous pace with 1 minute of body weight, BOSU and/or barbell exercises. The key to these workouts was the variety and intensity.  They were supervised by a personal trainer in a group setting at my health club.  My goal was to get stronger, build an injury resistant body and reduce the pounding on my legs while completing aerobic exercise.

Increasing the Intensity as the Race Gets Closer

Two months out from the ½ marathon, I started to gradually increase my weekly long run from 7 to 12 miles. I also increased the intensity of 1-2 runs per week.  All the while, I never used a GPS watch.   Following are some of the workouts that I completed:  Training started in September. During Weeks 1-4, I continued with base training (conversation pace runs of 4 – 7 miles) and cross-fit training.

Week 5 of 10
8 miles at easy/conversation pace (CP)
Fartlek
3 other easy/CP runs of 4 – 6 miles (1 day w/ strides)

Week 6
10 miles at CP
4 mile Tempo (at ½ Marathon Pace (MP))
3 x CP runs of 4 – 6 miles (1 day w/ strides)

Week 7
11 miles at CP (last 2 miles at ½ MP)
6 mile Tempo (at ½ MP)
3 x CP runs (1 day w/ strides)

Week 8
12 miles at CP (last 3 at ½ MP)
Track Workout – 4 x 1600M at 10k Pace
3 x CP (1 day w/ strides)

Week 9
10 miles at easy pace (last 3 miles at ½ MP)
Track Workout – Ladder (400M, 800M, 2 x 1200M, 800M, 400M at 5k pace)
3 x Easy Runs

Week 10
9 miles at easy pace (last 4.5 at ½ MP)
4 x CP 4-6 miles (2 days w/ strides)

Race Day – February 24th

Because I didn’t train too hard for this race, I wasn’t sure what kind of time to expect. The last ½ marathon I completed (2 years ago) was 1:27:45. I figured anything around 1:30 (6:55/mile pace) would be great. With almost ideal conditions of 35 degrees, overcast and no wind, I positioned myself at the start, slightly behind some runners who were projecting finish times of 1:25 – 1:28 (6:30 – 6:45/mile pace).

My strategy wasn’t to try to keep up with the faster runners. Instead, I wanted to keep them within range (gradually let them get 3-4 minutes in front of me). Turns out, this is exactly how the race played out. There were no splits given at any point, so I only knew my time as I approached the finish. My finish time was 1:30:25.

2019 Vancouver Lake Half Marathon

After the race I spoke with others who had run near me and told them that I had not used a watch for the last 5 months. Overwhelmingly, the response was positive and a few thought “how liberating.”

Lessons Learned

It really was liberating to train without a watch. However, I think I would use a watch for longer runs & track workouts if I was really concerned about achieving a goal time. The key to being successful when you’re not training with a watch is to be honest with yourself and push during the hard workouts and of course during the race. I knew I was getting fit when I was able to comfortably push the last 4.5 miles of my 9 mile run the Sunday before the race.

Due to some tough weather in January, I condensed the timing of the strength & track workouts (typically they start 8 weeks out), I never worried about splits during any of these harder runs. My goal was to self calibrate what I thought were 5k, 10k, ½ and full Marathon paces during each of the tougher workouts. During each one I always felt like I could have gone further or completed another interval at the desired pace. This doesn’t mean that I wasn’t running fast enough, because I felt fatigued.

I’m certain I could have run faster in the race if I had a 6 or 8 mile split. Also, if I included more strength and interval workouts in my schedule, I would have benefited. I also believe that if I had used a GPS watch during the race, I would have pushed the pace a bit more during the middle and end to get under 1:30.


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If you’re interested in joining me, I can put together either a custom training plan or I can personally coach you. Either program will be specific to your goals and athletic abilities. Just click on the links for details.

9 Tips To Develop Self Discipline (Updated)

9 Tips To Develop Self Discipline (Updated)

How Runners Develop More DisciplineDeveloping more self discipline is an essential skill for those who are training for a marathon. Completing the race is an incredible achievement, but it’s the journey of training for 12-16+ weeks, that leads to a true sense of accomplishment.  I’ve always believed that busy people get more done.  However, the fact is that people with a higher degree of self discipline spend less time debating whether or not to indulge in activities and behaviors that prevent them from achieving their goals.  For some people, simply being undisciplined can cause them mental anguish.

Over the years, I’ve encountered numerous middle age athletes who successfully achieved their athletic goals because they had the discipline to follow a training plan, even while leading busy lives.  I have also coached people who struggled to keep up with a plan because they admittedly had a hard time staying focused. Developing more discipline takes time and effort, but there are numerous ways you can make this process easier for yourself. In this article, I’ll discuss a few tips that will assist you in becoming more disciplined, so you can achieve your goals.

Finding your motivation or identifying your “why”

To start the process of getting more discipline, you need to recognize why you may lack discipline and what you stand to gain by gaining more discipline. You may be unhappy with your appearance and believe that training for and ultimately completing a race will help you lose weight and improve your health.  Another motivation may come from the desire to “get back in the game” after a long layoff from regular exercise.  Having clarity of purpose will help you with each of the next steps.

Make a strong commitment to your goals

Use a training schedule to prepare you for your race. If you work with a coach (which I strongly recommend), he or she can put together a have a schedule that fits your goals, athletic abilities and specific situation (like work and family commitments).  The workouts should be laid out for you in a calendar format. Now all you need to do is plan at which time you will complete your daily training.

Understand your weaknesses and rid yourself of temptations

If you are trying to follow a training plan, it’s essential that you plan your workouts. Just like you schedule appointments in your calendar, do the same with your workouts for the week. I like to plan the times and specifics of my workouts on Sunday.  If I didn’t take the time to plan ahead, I would find dozens of excuses or other activities to take up my time. Years ago, when I was coming off of injuries that slowed me, I had convinced myself that I had become too busy to train for races. Now I simply work around important things like Church and family commitments. I don’t neglect these important activities, instead, I ensure that I also include time for exercise. 

“Ultimately, working out becomes a part of my life.  It’s something that I just do almost everyday.”

If you want to improve something like your productivity at work so you don’t have the excuse that you’re too busy to exercise, try turning off social media notifications and silence your cell phone. Make a list of “to do’s” for each day and commit to minimizing distractions, so you can stay focused on accomplishing your goals.

Just as important as committing to regular exercise is eating healthy.  Another common weakness for many, including myself, is sweet and processed foods. I know that having these foods around becomes incredibly tempting when I’m hungry. Having the willpower to avoid unhealthy food is far easier when you are not surrounded by it. If you want to eat healthier, remove the junk food and soda from your house and don’t buy it when you’re in the store.  Shop only from your list and only go grocery shopping after you’ve eaten, so you avoid the temptation to get food you don’t need. 

The bottomline is that you set yourself up for success by “ditching” bad influences.

Create new habits by taking small actions – the key to Self Discipline

Start getting better a self discipline by accomplishing a small/easy task.  If you haven’t been working out regularly, schedule 30 minutes of exercise.  Don’t overdo things, with a workout that will leave you sore or unable to workout again the next day.  Instead, start with 20 minutes of run/walking and finish with 10 minutes of stretching.  The key is to build momentum with consecutive days of exercise. Once you start seeing results, it will be easier to make exercise a part of your routine

Staying motivated to train

Another variation is the time version

This strategy is where you say “I will spend a certain amount of time on this project.” For example, say to yourself “I will just do this for the next 15 minutes,” you may find that you actually get into the flow of what you are doing and end up spending a longer period of time on it and getting more done.  The same thing goes for exercise. Just getting out the door for 20 – 25 minutes may be enough if you only have 30 free minutes.

When you find yourself struggling, dig deeper into your motivation

If you’re training for a race so you can be healthy or for a charity, don’t forget that you’re doing something not only for yourself, but as an example for your spouse, kids and others who might benefit.

Tips for runners to develop self discipline

Plan non-working times

You cannot work all the time, or you will burn out very quickly. So be sure to schedule times where you have fun activities, or even just a half hour of relaxing. This gives you something to look forward to, and gives you a chance to recharge your batteries. This is especially important if your work requires a lot of creativity like writing, designing, and other such endeavors.

Celebrate your victories, but don’t get too down when you fail

Give yourself something to be excited about by planning a reward when you accomplish your goals. Just like when you were a little kid and got a treat for good behavior, having something to look forward to can give you the motivation to succeed.  Also, recognize that failure can actually be a victory, because failure means you tried. Hopefully you learned something too, so you now know what doesn’t work. Next time, try something a bit different. This is why it’s important to practice your pre-race routine. Whether it’s in 10k or 1/2 marathon before your marathon or just a long run, find out what foods, drinks & gels work best for you.

Get Support

Form a support team by reaching out to the people around you, and asking for their help. It really helps to have a coach who understands your goals and specific situation.  Don’t hesitate to ask for suggestions when you’re struggling to follow a plan.  Another alternative is to work and discuss your challenges with a training partner or partners. Remember, that you’re not on an island by yourself. Develop and use your support team.

I’m happy to help you.  Please contact me if you’re having challenges staying or getting motivated to train for a race or to simply resume running.

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5 Ways to Stay Motivated To Train for a Race

5 Ways to Stay Motivated To Train for a Race

MotivationLosing motivation to keep training? It’s very common with busy middle age athletes. I’ve worked with a number of clients over the years and developed some proven “tricks” to stay motivated to continue your training despite poor weather, being busy or when you miss a few workouts. With a little preparation and solid planning, there’s no reason why you can’t stay motivated all the way through race day.

Here’s how….

1. Start with the big picture.

What is it you’re trying to accomplish or what is your why? You need to write this down, because the clearer the vision, the more likely you are to keep going, even when times get tough.  Start by asking yourself what it is you’re trying to achieve.  Are you simply trying to finish a particular race, like a 1/2 or full marathon? Maybe you have a goal time (PR) in mind.  Another “why” for many athletes is that they are trying to raise money for charity they may be representing on race day. 

The visualization of accomplishing this goal is essential. Picture yourself standing at the starting line on race day.  You’re fit, confident and ready to get to the starting line. Now picture yourself finishing the race. We tend to perform in the way we expect to. So if we expect to fail, we do. By seeing success, you’re more likely to attain success.

2. Re-confirm your “why,” take time to ensure it’s truly YOUR goal.

This may seem like a waste of time, but I can assure you that your success depends on you “owning” your goal. I like to ask prospective clients about their “WHY.” Inside my athlete profile/questionnaire which is used to develop personalized training plans, I want to understand what’s behind an athlete’s why. If the word “should” comes up, chances are the person may have set a goal because they feel like it’s something they’re supposed to do, and not something they want to do. In my experience, more often than not, people are less likely to stay motivated when they’re on the path of “should.”

Staying motivated to train

3. Break down your training into weekly buckets (or microcycles) instead of looking at the entire 12 – 16 week plan.

In other words, follow a training plan. Once you have a goal and and a “why,” it’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed about how you’re going to accomplish that goal. Consider hiring a qualified coach to write you a custom plan that will help you meet your goal while fitting your athletic abilities and specific situation. Don’t use a generic plan off the internet. In coach speak, we refer to an entire plan as a macrocycle, which depending on the length of the plan, is comprised of 3-4 mesocycles, which are each made up  of 3-4 microcycles (think weekly or even 4-5 days of workouts).  By breaking it up into smaller pieces, you regain the feeling that you’re doing something possible.

4. If you’re overwhelmed or feel like you’re not following your plan, talk to your coach or a running partner with whom you have been training.

It might be that you don’t feel prepared to run your race because you’ve been injured or missed some key workouts.  It may be necessary to slightly adjust your goal. Figure out what you need to do next and then go about making sure you do your best to move forward. You might have to pick up where you left off on the training plan or you may have to back track a week or two and redo some workouts.  The important thing is to get some momentum by simply doing some kind of workout followed the next day by another workout.

5. Always remember your “Why.”

Post your why on an index card or post it, where you can see it daily. Just this little reminder can provide you with the fresh motivation to keep going.

Pro tip: Celebrate the small successes (such as completing a long run or challenging interval workout). This will help keep you motivated to continue your journey.

middle age athlete

Motivation is something many lose during training.  However, I found that you can regain it or keep your levels high with a little planning and with the help of others (this last one is huge). By keeping on track with your goals, I’m confident you will find you will maintain your motivation and continue training.

If you need help or just have a simple question, please reach out to me through the contact link at the top of blog.

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