Tag Archives: Shin splints

Rest day and shin splints

I decided to take a rest day today and to go cycling tomorrow morning. I was going to do things the other way round but what’s the fun of life without some spontaneity. The rest day has been fabulous. I slept in a bit, went to work and am about to go home to chill out until my partner gets home from late shift.

In other news, my shin splints are causing me a bit of bother. Despite all the physio I had in the second half of last year, they are now worse than I can ever remember them being. (Note, that’s definitely not a criticism of the physiotherapist who was really great).

It hurts to walk when they aren’t strapped though I am running pain free during my weekly trail running sessions when the shin is strapped. Clearly, the lengthy period of rest from running didn’t do the trick so I’m not entertaining that idea again. I’m not going to run more than once a week though.

I’m stretching my calves three to five times a day, doing my trigger pointing and also rolling the calf out on my foot ease at least every second night. Hopefully it helps stretch the muscle so that the pressure is taken off the connective tissue around the shins.

I am in two minds about going back to physiotherapy. I spent well over a thousand dollars there in the second half of last year and am no closer to a cure. I’ve had periods where the pain has gone so it might help but every time the pain just comes back. Actually, what happens is that when my shin isn’t sore, my sacroiliac joint plays up. And when my sacroiliac joint isn’t sore, my shin plays up. So there’s definitely something cyclical going on.

I am considering buying a pair of compression garments to wear when my shins are most painful. Perhaps it will provide enough support to relieve the pain in my shins. The only thing stopping me is not knowing whether they will actually work or whether I’ll be throwing more money at something else that doesn’t quite work.

I’m not upset at the situation. In fact, I’ve had shin splints since I was 17 or 18 years old so I’m sure I can continue to live with them. My biggest concern is that they turn into stress fractures. But hopefully with my training focus shifting to cycling and paddling, rather than running, the risk of this will be reduced.

So that’s it from me on this rest day. If anyone has any ideas for my shins, I’m open to suggestions. Tomorrow morning I am getting back on the bike for one last ride before my 200km night Audax cycle on Saturday. I’m a little nervous because there’s 2,500m of climbing and I’ve never ridden more than 160km before.

 

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Herbal remedy experiment

I’ve been growing comfrey in my garden for years. I grow it because it’s a great fertiliser but it’s also an old herbal remedy for bone fractures. The caveat is that it should not be used for more than 10 days in a row nor more than 4-6 weeks a year as a topical treatment because it has the potential to cause liver damage. It should also never be ingested or used on broken skin. This post is not providing medical advice. I am merely sharing my own personal experience. I have not studied natural medicine and do not recommend anyone use herbal treatments unless they have consulted their medical physician.

Caveat aside, comfrey contains allantoin, which can help repair cells. It has long been used to heal bone fractures (hence the common name ‘knit bone’) and it is reputed to be a good anti-inflammatory for deep bruises.

I have cooked up a comfrey poultice that I’m using on my foot and shin. I am not using it every day but am going to try it a few times to see whether it can help. I figure it can’t do any harm to try, so long as I head the warnings about limiting my use of the herb. I think I will use it 5-6 times over the coming fortnight. Hopefully it will start off the healing process.

1. Blend comfrey leaves and water

2. Add flour to form a paste

3. Spread paste on a cloth or pad

4. Wrap cloth or pad around injury

5. Tie cloth or pad around injury

6. Wrap in plastic and sports tape to prevent leakage

I’m also going to speak with my physio tomorrow about whether a set of crutches might be useful. I can’t seem to sit still so resting my foot isn’t going so well. But if I have a set of crutches I can still get around while resting my foot. I’ve pulled out of Tough Mudder because it seems silly to risk further injury when all I want to do is run ultras.

I mean, I’ve really fallen in love with the sport. There is only one other thing I’ve ever been ‘eat, sleep and breath’ interested in, and that’s my garden. I’ve cycled most of my life but haven’t ever been in love with it; my bike’s always just been a mode of transport. I love my motorbike but only ride it; I have only recently decided to learn how to service it myself.

But running … I am surprised to find I love it. I want to run long distances. I don’t need to be fast but I need to be out there in the bush running. And it’s trail ultras that I crave. Sure, I’ve now run a marathon but it didn’t give me the same buzz as the thought of being out on the trails for 7 – 20 hours give me. I can’t explain it; but I could eat, sleep and breath ultras quite easily. I know the names of some ultra runners while I’ve never known the names of any other sports people (not even triathlon).

So I’m going to try my comfrey poultice and perhaps use crutches. And when I can run again, I’m going to follow a progressive program to sensibly build my strength and endurance to reduce the risk of my leg injuries recurring. Because I just need to run.

Making lemonade from lemons

Serious food for thought

When I started running again last year, I knew the risks. I also stuck my head in the sand about the extent of my existing leg injuries: shin splints and ITB in my left leg, sharp pains in the arch of my right foot and a spot on my back that no one could touch. I’ve battled through this far (15 months) with my head buried in those tiny grains you find on the beach.

When I decided on the 12-in-12 Challenge my first stop was the physiotherapist. I knew that I couldn’t get through it without getting some attention on my legs.

What I didn’t expect was for my shin and ITB injuries to respond so well to treatment. They responded so well that I forgot about them long enough to overdo it in the garden last weekend. The physio strapped the calf this morning to help it rest and recover more quickly. I’m confident it will respond well to the ongoing physiotherapy and my homework.

I remembered to tell the physio about the pain in my foot this morning. It’s the first time I’ve remembered to mention it (I actually marked the painful spot with a pen before I went in this morning). After poking and prodding my foot, the physio told me he suspects a stress fracture. That’s pretty bad news for me. At the end of our session today, the physio also strapped my foot to help it rest. He’s going to have another look at it on Monday to see how it responds to a week of rest. MRIs are expensive here in Australia so he said he’d prefer to wait to see whether I need to shell out for the test.

So here’s my lemons: best case scenario I have a serious soft-tissue injury in my left foot and worst case scenario is that I have a stress fracture. Either way, I’ll be unable to run for 4-12 weeks.

Here’s my lemonade: these are chronic injuries I’ve had for years and I know I’ve found a physio who can help me fix them. Even if my 12-in-12 Challenge is off, I have gained so much confidence in the past two months and know that I have what it takes to run ultra marathons. The injuries are long-standing problems, they haven’t been caused by the ultra running. In fact, if it weren’t for the ultra running I probably wouldn’t have gone to see someone about getting them fixed.

I’m going mountain biking with friends this afternoon. I’m allowed to cycle so long as I take it easy. Tomorrow I will go swimming for the first time in months. I’m still doing Tough Mudder next weekend but will just be doing it for a laugh and will be walking up the hills. It will probably be my final event for the year. That means I have three months to work on endurance by swimming and cycling, strength in the gym and flexibility if I can find an affordable yoga class.

When I can run again I’m probably going to focus on either the Northface 100km trail run in May (solo run) or the Oxfam Trailwalker 100km trail run in June (team event). And this time I’m going to do it right rather than just jumping in. I’m enjoying reading two blogs by runners training for ultras (Run Nature and Run Bike Race) and am inspired by their systematic approaches to increasing mileage and running well, rather than just bumbling through.

I hope the news on Monday is good. But I am preparing for the worst. Either way, I can only grow from the experience.

A tough decision

That’s it! I’m calling it! This Saturday’s 50km trail race is off 😦 .

I was supposed to be running the 50km trail run at the Glasshouse 100. It was going to be my third event in the 12-in-12 Challenge. However, I aggravated my shin splints on Saturday. My leg hurts when I sleep and even hurts when I walk. Even if it did recover by Saturday morning, all I would be doing is risking further injury.

It’s totally gutting but at the same time, the Glasshouse Trail Runs are not that great. The course is not all that scenic and just follows sharp, gravelly fire trails. If I had a choice of events to pull out of, this is the one.

I’m not giving up on the 12-in-12 Challenge. I am still forging ahead. I already have two events scheduled for June so I still have 12 events in my 12 month calendar. And otherwise I can always do the Gold Coast Marathon in the first weekend of July 2013 to still have 12 events in 12 months (my first event was 29 July 2012).

But I need to be realistic. I can’t run this weekend and still be fit for the rest of my races. I need to get stronger. I haven’t done the miles and I was carrying a long-term injury into the challenge. I went in eyes wide open that this would be tough and that there would be set-backs along the way. The real challenge is to overcome those set-backs and make the best decisions for my success in the challenge.

Besides, I have Tough Mudder Sydney on 22 September and I would much rather participate in that than the Glasshouse trail run.

So my next 12-in-12 Challenge event is now the 50km trail run at Washpool on 14 October. I think that’s going to be a magnificent event. It’s a flat course with no cut-offs and beautiful wild flowers.

Rest day mischief: Dreaming of the Annapurna Circuit

I’ve had a long-standing dream to trek the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. It’s not an uncommon dream; the Circuit often turns up in lists of the worlds ‘top ten’ walks. But it’s a dream I’ve always thought was out of my reach. I always thought it was too expensive and took too long to be possible for me. So I never went further than dreaming of the images of the trek that I saw in a book when I was in high school.

It was my birthday this past week and while out to dinner with my parents, we started to discuss hikes we might like to do. Mum mentioned Everest Base Camp but that didn’t really interest me; instead I went home and did some internet research about the Annapurna Circuit. What I found gave me hope of one day living my Annapurna Circuit dream: the strong Australian dollar and highly competitive Nepalese tourism industry means that the trek is now within my price range (if I use some self restraint and actually save my pennies for a year).

Today I had to take a rest day because my shin splints are playing up after my two days of pushing the wheelbarrow uphill in my garden. With my next race only 6 days away I’d rather skip my long run than risk injury. A whole day of rest had led to me getting stuck into some Annapurna Circuit research on the internet.

It’s now almost dinner time. I’ve gone from just idly surfing the net to phoning a friend to ask her which dates would suit her for the trek. She’s a teacher so we would have to go during the Christmas school holidays. I think it would be too soon for my bank account to go this December but it would give me something to work towards after my 12-in-12 Challenge is completed. And something a little more achievable than running the Bibbulmun Track, which was my other crazy post 12-in-12 Challenge idea.

I know that I will go round in circles for the next six months deciding on the next big adventure. I also know it seems silly because I’m only two months into my current challenge. But that’s just the way I am.

Having said that, this time it is the Annapurna Circuit … I’ve already told my partner that I’m going to save up and just book the trip as soon as I have the money (and have decided on which trekking company I want to use).

Who said rest days weren’t dangerous – LOL.

Rest day ramblings: Physio magic

Magic tools make it possible for me to touch my shin

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.