Beat This, Shin Splints!

“Beat This, Shin Splints!” was the Tweet I sent out after wrapping my lower legs in cohesive bandages. Pleased with myself as I headed out on a run, sure that I was taking every precaution to fend off the arrival of another bout of musculoskeletal mystery pain... it’s almost as though I’d never heard of tempting fate.

Cut to a week later, and I had to stop running (again), because of shin splints (again). I did make it into Week 4 of the Couch To 5K this time, so there is a small victory to be had, as I clean egg off my face.

I suppose my biggest disappointment is that even the gold standard for a gentle introduction to running seems to be beyond me right now. It’s not going to put me off, but I have had to reassess my approach to improving my fitness.

So what’s my solution? I’m reluctant to dial back the exercise I’m doing, because I don’t think I am overdoing it, cardiovascularly. Sure, the runs are tough, but I’m coping pretty well - shins aside. The obvious option is to switch out the running for something lower impact; swimming and cycling are the usual choices, but I’ll be damned if I get back in a pool until I’m ready to actually swim, rather than float and flail.

So, cycling it is! I’ve skipped over other low-impact options like using a cross trainer (elliptical trainer) simply because I have ready access to an exercise bike (stationary bike) at home. Transatlantic translations out of the way, I’m not sure that cycling will be sufficient, on its own, to strengthen the compensatory muscles in my hips, legs and ankles that will be necessary to combat shin splints next time around.

There’s a pretty useful article on Runners Connect that gives some strategies to avoid and overcome shin splints. I was following that during my previous C25K attempt, and I’m going to stick with it throughout my recovery and future attempts. This is all in the hope that within a couple of months I am ready to strap on the running shoes once more.

If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, I can only sympathise and encourage you too to seek alternative means of beating the frailties of age and languishing fitness. As for the shin splints, I may not have beaten them this time, but I will.