Whether you’re a weekend warrior or an athlete committed to exercising on a regular basis, setting and reaching fitness goals and then setting new ones is important. As you become more fit, your body can more easily reach a plateau, and it becomes necessary to take things up a notch in order to continue to get the most out of your exercise routine. And, of course, it feels pretty darn good as well.
However, sometimes you can overdo it and try to do too much too soon, causing injuries like shin splints. Is it possible to prevent shin splints while maintaining a challenging fitness regimen? The highly skilled team at Cardio Metabolic Institute answers with a resounding “Yes!”
In this blog, we share our insights on best practices to enable you to reach your fitness goals while minimizing your risk for shin splints.
Shin splints 101
Let’s get started with a quick explanation of what shin splints are. This common overuse injury occurs when you overwork the muscles in your lower leg through repetitive motions or a sudden increase in activity level, which in turn creates tiny tears in those muscles.
Although shin splints can happen to any athlete, it’s much more common with runners and those who play sports that feature long periods of intense running, such as soccer and basketball players. Due to intense training, military recruits and dancers are also particularly prone to developing shin splints.
Typically, an athlete experiences shin splint pain more intensely at the beginning of a run or workout, but the pain persists afterwards as well. If left untreated, shin splints can turn into more serious injuries such as stress fractures, so doing what you can do to prevent them in the first place is important.
Slowly build up workout duration and intensity
Perhaps the most prudent way to prevent shin splints is to be mindful of how you ratchet up the intensity and duration of your workout. Think 10%: When taking your run or workout to the next level, don’t increase the duration or intensity more than 10% per week. Making more incremental changes in your training can get you to your goals faster while preventing shin splints and other injuries.
Rest in between workouts or cross-train
Although you may not think about it this way, a part of every good fitness program is built-in periods of rest. This can take the form of days where you don’t do any formal exercise or you alternate between your normal run or workout and a low-impact activity like yoga, cycling, or swimming.
By planning off days or low-impact days, you take the stress off of your muscles and allow them to rest and heal. They’ll thank you later.
Wear appropriate supportive footwear
Some athletes seem to do all the right things and still get shin splints. In these cases, the culprit may be footwear. For every activity, there’s an appropriate shoe. If you’re a runner, your footwear is going to be different than if you’re working out in the gym or playing basketball. Each activity puts different demands on your feet, and the purpose of an athletic shoe is to provide the appropriate support for that activity.
If you have flat feet or high arches or need to correct the mechanics of how your foot makes contact with the ground, you may also need custom orthotics or inserts to provide optimal support.
Another thing to keep in mind is that athletic shoes wear out. Replace your shoes when they start to feel uncomfortable. For instance, typically runners should replace their shoes every 300 miles or so.
If you think you’re experiencing shin splints, don’t push through it. Instead, schedule a shin-splint evaluation at Cardio Metabolic Institute in Somerset, Monroe Township, or East Brunswick, New Jersey, before the condition worsens. Click or call today for an appointment at the office nearest you.