The Rough Guide to Not Getting Shin Splints

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New year, new me, that’s what we all say when we begin those yearly January rituals right? Pretending we’re gonna make life changes, run every day, eat oatmeal in the morning, meal prep and take up yoga. Well, this year might just be the year one of those sticks, the running not the yoga; I’m not crazy.

Interview with LURAC Training Captain, Jacob Cann

So, the most obvious one to start with would be; why running? What are the benefits and how can running help improve our wellbeing?

[Jacob]: I think the best thing about running is that it’s so accessible and easy to get into. It’s great for relaxing, a good opportunity to spend some time outdoors and it’s one of the few activities you are allowed to do in lockdown. It’s obviously pretty good for your physical fitness if you run frequently, but I find it’s just as beneficial mentally, as I said, it’s just really good for zoning out and relaxing for a bit, plus any opportunity for fresh air is good.

If a beginner runner came up to you and said, “I’ve been running everyday for the last two weeks but it’s not getting any easier, am I doing something wrong?” what would you suggest?

[Jacob]: Running everyday if you’re a beginner isn’t a great way to do it. Most likely you’ll tire yourself out and not make any real progress, or even get injured from it. Just gradually progressing and increasing how often, how far and how fast you run is a much more effective way to do it. You’ll give yourself more time to recover and reduce the chance of injuring yourself if you take your time and be patient with increasing your running mileage and frequency.

Is it better for a beginner to start slow and build up the distance or try and run a medium distance like 3k every time?

[Jacob]: It’s definitely better to have some sort of progression than just sticking to a distance for every run. Ideally, you should just gradually increase the length of your runs over time as you feel more comfortable until you get to a good distance and you can try changing your speed up more. There’s not really any formula for how to increase your distance but doing it so you’re never overreaching yourself and feel comfortable on your runs is quite important. Also, there’s no point in trying to push the pace too much to start with, starting slowly (even if you have to walk every now and then) is better than trying to throw yourself in at the deep end. As you run more you’ll naturally get faster without it feeling any harder as you progress, and don’t worry if some runs feel a lot harder than others, everyone has off days.

What kind of stretches do you recommend pre and post running?

[Jacob]: Generally stretching is more important after a run, just doing relatively basic stretches for your calves, quads and hamstrings for 20-30 seconds at a time is usually enough to ward off muscle-related injuries and stiffness. Doing static stretches before a run isn’t as useful. Warming up before a run, especially if you’re doing a faster run, is quite important though. This could just be a very easy jog, or doing a few dynamic drills like high knees, lunges just to warm the muscles up. All this does is just loosen the muscles up a bit so you’re less likely to injure yourself whilst you’re out running. I usually do a 2k jog or so followed by about 5 mins of drills before I do a faster session.

What causes shin splints and how can you prevent them?

[Jacob]: There are a few reasons you can get shin splints, but the majority of the time it’s because of running too much, especially if you’re increasing your mileage suddenly or just starting to run more regularly. The easiest way to avoid them is just to slowly increase your mileage, particularly if you’ve just starting to run regularly. Taking your time to increase the distance and regularity of your runs will reduce your chances of getting not just shin splints but lots of other overuse injuries too. The same applies if you’ve not run for a while due to injury or some other reason. Stretching your calves and doing exercises like heel raises helps to stop shin splints too; if you get them quite regularly changing your shoes might help out.

For longer distances do the trainers really make that much of a difference or is that just a ploy to force you into buying stupidly priced trainers?

[Jacob]: You don’t need to go out and spend over £100 on trainers but having a reasonable pair of well-fitting trainers will make running much more comfortable over longer distances. It certainly helps to prevent injuries and the longer the distance the better it is to have them, not just for injuries but it will also make the run feel easier and more comfortable. You do need to replace your shoes from time to time, as the wear from running affects the padding and structure of the shoe and just means you’re more likely to get injured wearing them.

What kind of strength training would you recommend alongside running and what would you say is the optimum work, rest day ratio?

[Jacob]: I don’t think it’s vital you do any strength training really, but some level of strength and conditioning work, particularly for your core, can be helpful. If you want to take your speed and shorter distances seriously then more weight training is good, but generally for longer distances just a couple of core workouts a week are good but not exactly compulsory. I, myself, do about 2 or 3 core sessions a week. Cross-training is another thing that can be useful, especially for periods when you’re injured, I find my cycling, in particular, is quite beneficial to running. As for work to rest day ratio it’s completely dependent on your ability and experience really. If you’re just starting out maybe running 3 to 4 times a week is a good aim, but as you get into running having just 1 or 2 rest days a week is absolutely fine. I personally don’t take any rest days in a week.

What makes running fun for you?

[Jacob]: A lot of things! I find it quite relaxing just heading out for an easy run, but I also really enjoy the competition and just trying to push myself as hard as I can to get new personal bests. But the most important thing for enjoying running is just the opportunity for some fresh air and being outside, especially as it means you can go explore places and get some nice views.

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