Shin Splints, IT Band Pain, Chafing, More Chafing and a Wolf Whistle

I started out rather innocently on a 10K run tonight, unaware of what lay in store for me.  If only I knew then what I know now.

It looked like it was going to rain before I left (and indeed, it had been raining intermittently all day) so I pulled out my old shoes.   I’m training for a 10 miler and have a heavy training schedule.  I didn’t want my “good” shoes to get wet because I wanted to wear them the following day.  Mistake #1.  I chose to wear a running skirt that I don’t normally wear.  Not only do I not normally wear it but I NEVER wear it for anything longer than 3k.  Mistake #2.

I fell into my normal routine: 5 minute or so warm-up and off I go. If you were inside my brain you would have heard this:

– Run, run, run, run, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch.  Hey.  Shin splints?  Hunh.  Weird.  I haven’t had those for eons.
– Wait a sec.  That tightness over the side of my knee?  That’s my old IT band issue flaring up?  What the heck…???
– Okaaayyy.  Now my shorts (attached to the skirt) are riding up.  That’s not cool.  They’re really rubbing.  I’m really sweaty.  Like “sweat dripping off my elbows and the tops of my hands are wet” sweating.  This isn’t feeling good.  They’re still rubbing.  Yank shorts down. That’s better.
– Keep running.
– Man, my shins hurt.
– Wolf whistle from passing car.  Oh hey.  I look good at least.  Or was that my neighbour?
– Oh my gosh these shorts are really rubbing!

And that was it.  The perfect storm had come to a chaotic focal point and I stopped running.  Let’s dissect the drama and see what went wrong so the same thing doesn’t happen to you.

Shoes and Shin Splints

I should have stuck with my newer shoes.  Even though my new shoes are a month old and even though they’re the latest version of my old shoes, I swear Saucony changed the model enough that I’m still getting used to them.  I think the switch back (plus a general muscular tightness) brought on the shin splints.  So, let’s say this happens to you – what do you do?

You can try a couple of things.  First of all, try running a little more slowly.  A lot of time shin splints are a result of starting out too quickly.  The muscles just aren’t warm enough to perform.  If that doesn’t work, try stopping and stretching.  Shin splints may be a result of a muscle imbalance.  Most people have stronger calf muscles than shin muscles.  Also, if you’re a girly girl like I sometimes am and you’ve just spent the entire day in heels, your calf muscles have shortened and your shin muscles have been lengthened all day long.  Stop and stretch your calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus).  Try to stretch your shin muscles (tibialis anterior).  The latter can be tricky because it’s just a tough muscle to stretch.  Resume running and take it easy.  When you get home, ensure that you stretch and if you’re shins are sore or continue to hurt throughout your run, make ice your friend and introduce it to your shins.

If you suspect that a muscle imbalance may be the root of your shin splints (stronger calves than shins), you can try this little exercise to strengthen them.

Take off your socks (assuming you’re wearing any).
Place a towel, all spread out, on the floor in front of you.
Place your feet flat on the towel.
Keeping your feet as flat as possible, use your toes to scrunch the towel up, gradually pulling it towards you.
You should feel the muscles in your shin working.
Keep going until all the towel has been pulled forward. Stop. Spread the towel out again and repeat.
This is much easier on a tile or wood floor than it is on carpet.
Some people find it convenient to put the toilet lid down, park themselves on the toilet and do this in the bathroom. Whatever does it for you.

IT Band Pain

I dealt with some iliotibial band pain for a while.  I’ve been diligent about stretching for the past year and a half and as a results have almost forgotten that little bit of fascia that messes so many of us up.  I get classic IT pain.  It feels less like pain (I stop before it gets that bad) and more like a tightening around the outside of my knee.  It’s almost an uncomfortable tingling.  In hindsight the tight calf/shin muscles and shoe mix-up probably contributed to that reappearance of pain.  Also, I haven’t been very diligent about stretching this week and after the weekend’s activities (a 5k race, a 15K long run and a 90 minute soccer game), I should have been (and should be now) stretching in every free minute I have. In my opinion, stretching is the best preventative measure you can take to prevent issues with your iliotibial band. If that doesn’t work, try massage or a foam roller.

Chafing.  Chafing deserves a post of its own.  It seems rather innocuous and then blammo…after running for 3 years, you’re chafed and you have a lot more sympathy for the dudes with bloody nipple streaks down their shirts.

The moral of the story is, sometimes runs don’t go as planned.  It happens.  What’s that saying — “Why do we fall down? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”  Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again another day.  Do not keep going if the pain/discomfort is going to cause you to miss more training.  I pulled the plug on this run because I knew from recent experience that chafing, depending on where it is, can stop you from running for a few days.  My philosophy is that it’s better to miss one day than it is to miss one week.

%d bloggers like this: