Shin Splints

In the running community we have all heard of shin splints. This is the generic term for a condition (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome) that gives pain along the shin. Like the Achilles or plantar fascia, shin splints is one of the most annoying injuries to pick up and one I’ve suffered from in the past. Why is this? Because you can most likely keep running with it for longer than you should!!

Typically, it is a bit sore starting out on a run but eases after a few K’s, and it may be sore when you stop. The more you run the longer the pain lasts, until it is sore throughout the whole run and even after your run has finished. The pain is usually hard to pinpoint and seems to travel down the shin bone.

Most worryingly, this condition is along a spectrum of bone stress injuries, culminating in a stress fracture. It’s believed the force/load applied to the bone while running is exceeds the bones ability to withstand it. This means the bone can’t remodel(fix itself) adequately. With increased load(more running), the development of a stress fracture becomes more likely.

A stress fracture can de differentiated from shin splints based on someone’s history, gender, training status, along with the location of pain. A stress fracture is much more focal. The pain can be singled out at a particular point. It doesn’t like impact! Even walking can become a problem.

What’s to be done with your Shin Splints?

In both cases, there is a need to reduce the load (time on feet) to an acceptable level. A plan needs to be put in place to address the underlying causes of the injury. This would involve building up the load tolerance of the bone through weightbearing and non-weightbearing exercises. The more you progress, the more you need to load the bone to stimulate healing and adaption.

Prevention is better than cure!

Runners tend to strength train everywhere but the lower limb(knees down). Therefore, we increase our chances of injury in this area. Exercises that I incorporate into my S&C plan are the following:

  • Straight leg heel raises (gastrocnemius)
  • Bent knee heel raises (soleus)
  • Step ups(glute max)
  • Side lying hip abduction (glute Medius)

Of note, Vitamin D is also beneficial for bone health.

Can I Run With a Sore Hamstring

This is a question I am often asked when dealing with hamstring injuries. My typical answer is, “it depends”.  Some of the questions I ask are as follows

  1. Was there a particular incident that led to a pain in your hamstring?
  2. Is it something that gradually came on over time?
  3. Do you have a history of hamstring injuries?
  4. Does the pain go down the leg?
  5. Describe what the pain feels like? Is it a sharp shooting electric like pain?
  6. Have you any numbness, tingling, pins and needles?
  7. Are there any associated issues that might relate to it?
  8. How is your general health?
  9. How is your bladder and bowel movements?
Continue reading “Can I Run With a Sore Hamstring”

New Goals

With a lot of us working from home or minding kids we find ourselves having a bit more time to exercise. This is a great opportunity to create some new goals. People who normally frequent gyms are now running roads and trails they have never done so before.

Motivation to exercise or run can be difficult for some. A lot of us are asking the question, “what am I training for”?  If you are a runner, you all had goals or should have had, before covid-19. The only thing that needs to change is the goal. It’s now more important than ever to have something to aim at, even if it’s just to keep you in the game.

With this lockdown, challenging and tangible goals are still achievable. Our focus needs to shift from what we can’t achieve (due to restrictions) to what we can.

Continue reading “New Goals”

Social Distancing – Back to Basics

With social distancing and having to stay home from work, a lot of people find themselves struggling to fill their day. The societal shift over the last few decades towards inadvertent overparenting and the over reliance on technology, has led many parents having to entertain their kids or let tablets, etc. do it for them.

In decades gone by kids developed the skills to pass their time by using their imagination and ingenuity, creating games and finding fun in the most basic things. However modern life has robbed them of this primal skill.

This topic has been extensively researched and written about in the last few years and each of us draw our own conclusions.

Jumping, hopping, running, digging, planting, making huts, playing grown ups, skipping etc. are all active ways I have seen my own kids finding happiness in.

Enjoy the unearthing of their ability to have fun and amuse themselves.

They’re more robust than we give them credit for!

Case Study – Shin Pain

Alan is 36 years of age and liked to keep fit by doing some running and gym work. However, for over a decade he has had back issues and suffered from pain in his left shin, he would also experience low energy levels and tire very quickly. Understandably, this severely curtailed his ability to run and do certain exercises.

When he jogged, he would feel a tightness in his calf which spread to the front of his shin, reaching a point where he would have to stop running. The symptoms would clear within 24 hours. Interestingly, when he sprinted, he never experienced the shin pain.

Understanding the different biomechanics of sprinting and jogging gave me an idea as to why the sprint work didn’t affect him. I recorded Alan running at his normal pace on a treadmill and then looked at how he sprinted. Using a slow-motion camera I could see that Alan was over-striding, had a low leg turnover, was landing with a straight knee, had both feet on the ground and had an excessive heel strike. It was this last trait that informed me why jogging and sprinting were different experiences for him. When he jogged he had a very pronounced heel strike. This created a lot of activity in the muscles on the front of the shin. In contrast, when he was sprinting, he landed on the ball of his foot. In this position there is less activity in the muscle of the front of the shin. Therefore, the objective was to retrain Alan to run with less of a heel strike.

We began with form drills which ingrained a forefoot landing pattern. In tangent with this Alan ran for a number of time intervals using a metronome set at 5-7% quicker than his normal leg turnover. We also used some form cues like “land softly” and “pick up your heels”. Alan would replicate these sessions twice to three times per week.


During his first week Alan ran three times for 10 minutes each, pain-free. As the weeks progressed so did the pain-free interval periods he ran for. Adding in some strength work, Alan allowed his body to absorb the demands of running.

Alan has since ran a number of 10ks and is training for a half marathon. He currently runs 3-4 times per week while also carrying out strength and conditioning work. He is delighted with his progress and believes it has had a hugely positive change on his quality of life.

Lactic Acid or Rather Lactic Build Up

Lactate/Lactic Acid

Most of us who run have felt that burning sensation in our legs during the end of a heavy tempo session, or a few repeats from finishing a session of 400’s. You’re urging your legs to keep going despite the very obvious slow down in pace. The session finishes and you walk off the track. The talk about the session as you gather for your cool down is how tough but good the session was. Your mind is screaming, “well it wasn’t good for me”. You chip in your two cents worth about how difficult the last few reps were. “I was fine, then all of a sudden my legs began to burn and I couldn’t keep the pace up”. Club mates nod in knowing agreement. “That’s the lactic acid in your legs” It slows you down when you go above your lactic threshold. You’ll probably be a bit sore tomorrow”.

Running – Older But Faster!

Running – Older But Faster!

Running began for me as a young child. I fell into it, I was a boxer first, but through my training I discovered that I was a fairly good runner too. I was one of those athletes of decent ability who fell through the cracks during college, which led to a long time out of the sport. Although I never lost my love of fitness and endurance sports. I tried my hand at triathlons for a few years, but the love of pure running never left me. I’m back running five years now, after a ten year sabbatical.

Marathon Week

Marathon Week – How to manage your thoughts & feelings

Marathon week is probably the hardest week of all the weeks leading up to the race. This is the time when you starting doubting yourself, feel niggles, thinking  your legs are heavy and have a general lack of energy. The upshot of this is, its normal to feel this way. In fact if you aren’t feeling a little off-centre, I would question if you are truly switched on for what is about to come.

Build Your Aerobic Base!

Aerobic base

An aerobic base is the cornerstone of any running related sport. You cannot build a sound physical condition without a sound aerobic base. The natural progression of movement from birth is to roll, crawl, walk, run. Endurance sports are no different. Weather you play football, soccer, hurling, running, triathlon, tennis, it is irrelevant. The basis for achieving your potential is grounded in a solid aerobic base. Only then should you engage in anaerobic training. Continue reading “Build Your Aerobic Base!”