At a recent local race, I was fortunate enough to meet Cristina Nistler, the head athletic trainer for Northwestern University's cross country team! She was able to share her experience with preventing, recognizing and treating SHIN SPLINTS, a common injury with runners. She even carved out some of her time to write an article for us to read on the topic! I have already learned a lot about this topic from Cristina and hope you are able to find the same.
Preventing, Recognizing and Treating Shin Splints
"20 years ago when I decided to join my high school’s track team, I ran happily for a couple of months before being blindsided by a painful case of shin splints. I remember one of my teammates at the time telling me, “Oh no! Shin splints means your muscles are pulling away from your bones!” Let me tell you, that’s a terrifying diagnosis. Thank goodness it is not true. Sadly I still hear a lot of runners say that phrase.
“Shin Splints” is a term that gets used a lot to describe any pain in the front of the lower leg. The actual cause of the pain can be one of a number of things. Most commonly the pain is actually a condition called Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS). MTSS occurs when the amount of stress we place on our legs increases too much too soon. This is why we often see it in brand new runners or in runners who have begun to train for a longer race distance, like a marathon, and increase their weekly mileage too quickly.
It is very possible to prevent this injury from occurring and prevention is wonderful because it means you won’t have to run through pain or take any valuable time off from your training. Here are the 3 key rules for preventing MTSS:
#1. The 10% Rule – Only increase your mileage volume by 10% per week. If right now you run 3 miles, 5 days per week, that is 15 miles. 10% of 15 is 1.5 miles. That means that when you are ready to increase your training volume, you can safely begin by increasing to 16.5 miles the following week. This can be done by distributing that extra distance throughout the week or by adding a longer run of 4.5 miles to just one day. If you are planning to start training for a longer race, it is very important to find a training plan that doesn’t begin at a weekly mileage that’s significantly higher than what you are used to.
#2 Keep Calf Muscles “Loose” – Invest in a foam roller, lacrosse ball or any massage tool that you will use. And then use it before runs, after runs, or while you are hanging out watching Netflix! Tight calf muscles are almost always closely linked to shin splints. Our calves work hard when we run and they deserve a little TLC to prepare them for movement as well as to help them recover after a run.
#3 Work Your Glutes – “Really?” You might ask. “Work my glute muscles to prevent shin pain?” Absolutely. Our gluteal muscles control the motion of our hips. And our hips control the motion of the rest of our lower bodies. Weak glute muscles lead to instabilities that can place unnecessary amount of pressures on our shins. If I were to recommend only one exercise for every single runner to do, it would be the clamshell exercise. If I were to recommend more than one, it would be the many variations of the clamshell that increase the strength, endurance, and stability of the Gluteus Medius muscle. Here is a short video on how to do the clamshell.
These same 3 rules are also instrumental in rehabilitating a runner that is treating or recovering from MTSS. If you adjust your mileage, work on massaging your calf muscles and strengthening your glutes but do not feel your pain resolving, please consult a sports medicine trained physician, athletic trainer or physical therapist for further evaluation.
Cristina C Nistler MS, ATC
Associate Athletic Trainer
Northwestern University Athletics
Women's Cross Country & Track
This weekend was the Chicago Rock N' Roll Half Marathon, a much anticipated event since last year's race. This was actually the race the spurred me to start Renner's High a few months later, and I am so grateful for that spark of inspiration. I was somehow able to crush a whopping 5 minute PR from my last PR, all while in the rain! I was a little confused at first, but it all made sense after reviewing these 3 things that I did differently from all of my other races:
1. Train for the worst
It was a rainy Saturday morning 2 weekends ago, and the last thing I wanted to was go outside and run 12 miles. I reminded myself of the qualifying time that I needed to get for the Boston Marathon, and decided to lace up my shoes. This was such a powerful run for my mental capacity, and I would not have been prepared for this weekend's race without it!
2. Visualize the Race
Most people know when it is going to rain on their parade during race-day, but most people don’t take the time to visualize themselves powering through it. I remember a distinct moment during mile 4 when the rain first started picking up strength, and a man in front of me started cussing out the rain and slowed down drastically. As I passed him, I reminded myself of the night before where I had visualized my mind and body persevering past the rain and boldly running through the finish line.
3. Encourage Others
Shortly after passing this man, I began to pace with another man who seemed to be struggling as well. I'm not going to pretend like the rain didn’t suck, because I couldn't even see and wanted to give up myself. After a few minutes next to eachother, I fist bumped him for encouragement, and he responded with the an overwhelming yell "still dry?" We both laughed and found that our pace had drastically picked up from the mutual encouragement. I can't tell you how many times I have intentionally encouraged others to gain strength after seeing them pick it up themselves. This is a powerful strategy of running that makes me love the community so much more.
If you are ever upset about the weather raining on your race-day parade, just remind yourself that a PR is VERY possible, especially if you use the strategies above. May the wind be forever at your back.
During my time as a runner, I have limped my way into work after a few major races. My coworkers are always curious as to why I continue running, and I often ask myself the same thing the week after race-day. It took a lot of time to discover that the majority of my injuries were caused from a bad post-race strategy. Here is what I learned:
1. Proper Nutrition and Hydration
"YES, I finished the race, where is the beer tent!?" It is so easy to finish your race and celebrate a hard earned PR with the free drink ticket. Often times we forget that we had just finished an exhausting body stimulation, and our bodies are desperately pleading for water, electrolytes, carbs, and proteins. Before you hit the beer tent, take your time polishing off a banana and a water. There is nothing wrong with the beer afterwards, but remember that alcohol dehydrates the body, and can inflame an injury if you feel one popping up.
2. RICE RICE Baby
Speaking of post-run pains.. If you feel your knees or your ankles hurting or swelling after the race, immediately ice that portion of the body. It is important to decrease blood flow with R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compress, and elevate). The next day, if you still feel the pain, it is more than okay to take some Aleve as a pain-reliever and anti-inflammatory.
3. Pinpoint Exact Pain and Strengthen for the Next Race
A lot of injuries are caused from a lack of muscle strength in a specific area. If you are experiencing a sever pain after the race, I would highly recommend checking out a local Athletico or your personal coach to have them find the root cause of the pain. They shoudl be able to offer you some recovery stretches and exercises to prevent future injuries in that part of the body.
4. Proper Post-Race Stretch
Even if you don't feel any pain, your muscles will be craving a good stretch after the hard run. You don't want to allow your muscles to cool down without properly stretching. I recommend hitting the main muscle groups here during your stretch: the calves, quads, glutes, lower-back, and hip-flexors, See these stretches from a previous Instagram Post, but keep in mind that this was meant for a pre-training run, not a post race, so extend these stretches up to 30 seconds each.
5. Rest.. A lot
One of my favorite parts of race day is the quality of sleep during the next few days. Your body will be requiring a lot of rest, so it is safe to plan for 8 hours of sleep the next night! A lack of sleep will drastically reduce your recovery process.
These are some of the top ways to prevent future injuries after your next race!
Everyone has experienced a moment of sheer difficulty just before a final moment of success. The most understood moment of difficulty for runners is the infamous "wall" that occurs moments before the finish line is in sight. Many business leaders hit their wall just before a big win or final presentation is due. If you have ever hit that wall in life, then this article was written for you.
Last weekend, I found myself in a sticky situation... Literally. It was a hot summer day, and the looming feeling of an 11 mile run wore me out before I had even laced up my shoes. I had plenty of sleep, ate well the week before, and knew that I had ran further distances in previous seasons. The run started out great, despite the overwhelming heat. As time went on, I felt doubt creep into my mind and knew that I had a long road ahead of me to finish. As soon as I hit the 8th mile, my legs began to feel week and the thought of 3 more miles convinced my mind that I couldn't hold a steady pace. I told my pacer that I needed to fall back, and felt nothing but defeat in my heart. I had a valid excuse from the heat, but I knew that I had more in the tank as I approached the final mile and experienced the energy reserves kicking-in. It was a long week of processing this run.
I reminded myself of an exciting trip to Ireland with my sister that we had planned months in advance. We had our bags packed, itineraries set, and our expectations set high for the St. Paddy's weekend ahead of us. As we boarded the plane, my sister scanned her ticket, turned around to smile at me, and walked ahead to find her seat. I scanned my ticket and heard a loud BEEP alerting the staff that my ticket was invalid. "Sir, you are not allowed to board this plane. Step aside and we will figure this out after everyone else boards." WHAT? 30 minutes later, I find myself stressing-out that my sister will be leaving the country without me as I discussed options with the airline staff. I repeatedly told myself "this is difficult, but I have been through similar issues and have ended up on top". My calm demeanor and light humor amused the staff, and they ended up giving us front row seats, which actually gave us a beautiful overnight view of the NORTHERN LIGHTS! We had the best seats on the plane with the largest window for optimal views. The moment before that moment was tough, but the end result was oh-so rewarding.
Today, I found myself in another rewarding situation. It was a mild summer day, and I had prepared my mind to conquer the 13 mile run ahead of me. I visualized the infamous "wall" popping-up before the finish-line, and also visualized myself running through the pain to victory. I had even studied top athletes during their best performance, and learned that their slowest mile was the 2nd to last mile of the race, and that their best miles were the first AND the last mile before the finish line. I felt great during the first 8 miles, but my muscles begin to tighten and my breath begin to quicken during the 9th mile. I repeatedly told myself "this is difficult, but I have been through similar issues and have ended up on top." The pain was tough, but I remained strong and continued to force myself to uplift other runners experiencing the same pain around me. As we approached the final loop, everyone's adrenaline kicked-in, we pushed through the pain, and felt a sense of euphoria, commonly known as a "runner's high."
There were clearly two different outcomes from these long runs. One was filled with doubt/defeat, the other was filled with confidence/victory. The only differentiating factor was the preparation for difficulty, and an expected victory during the final loop. Even during the difficulties of travel, I felt a sense of assurance during a stressful situation, remained calm, and persevered to see a supernatural success story come true. This is the power of belief during the moment before the final moment.
May the wind be forever at your back.