Like many runners, shin splints and ITB syndrome have been an ongoing battle for me. I first started to get shin splints when I was a junior elite triathlete during the mid-1990s. My ITB became a problem in the late-1990s shortly after I stopped racing triathlon.
The pain from my injuries caused me to stop running from 1998 to 2004; swapping the sport for cycling. But I never really loved cycling like I have always loved running. In 2004 and 2005 I ran again. Every run was excruciatingly painful. But I had a lot of demons to exorcise so I ran in agony until I could no longer run. And then I stopped. Until July 2011.
When I decided to take up triathlon last year, it was because I was too scared to take up running. Scared because I didn’t know how to run without pain. And this time, I wasn’t taking up the sport to exorcise demons; I was taking it up to experience the joy that comes with doing what I love.
Fortunately, I discovered barefoot running, which allowed me to run pain free. But the injuries were still there. I could run without pain but my right shin was still always sensitive to touch and my right ITB would still get tight when I walked with a backpack or ran in shoes. The injuries didn’t get worse but they also weren’t getting better.
Just before the City to Surf Marathon, I went to see a Paul, the physiotherapist at Body Leadership Australia. I’d heard about him through my running club. I didn’t expect much from my first visit, given that I’ve had these injuries for over 15 years. But I was wrong.
Paul assessed my legs and back to identify weaknesses and inflexibility. The short version is that I have very short calves, extremely inflexible ankles and a right leg that doesn’t track straight (I knew that because it whips around so much I can see it when I run). If that all sounds dire, it’s not: I seem to be able to run and there’s no reason for me to stop doing what I love.
I’ve been to see Paul twice and have been doing my homework exercises every day. I press the ball against my ITB trigger points and hook my fingers into the trigger points in each of my calves (I found some in my left leg so decided to work them too to prevent shin splints starting in my ‘good’ leg). I use the foot ease roller on the muscle at the outside of my shins, the three sides of my calves, my gluteals and my ITB. I do my stretches and I am sitting in cold baths after every run that is 10km or farther.
I am excited to announce that for the first time since I was about 17 years old, I can run my hand down my right shin without pain. It’s amazing! I haven’t been able to touch my shin like I am in the photo above in 15 years because it was all swollen and sore (there was a big rock hard lump where the muscle and bone joined). But the swollen lump is already gone and I can feel my legs loosening up.
Here’s to years of pain free running because I’m loving the joy it brings. And I can’t wait until my injuries are fully healed.