Monday, January 5, 2015

Shin splints and other mysteries

The transition from outside running to inside running has not been smooth.  I expected as much as this happens every year.

This year the hiccup was shin splints.  Shin splints occur when the muscles along the front of your lower leg are overworked.  A short list of potential causes include:
  • Ramping up mileage too quickly
  • Too long of a stride
  • A stride with heel-strike
  • Shoes with heels that are too tall
  • A shoe with too stiff of a sole
  • Lack of stretching
  • Changing to a running surface that is "stickier"

 

Ramping up

Ramping up was not the issue.  That is part of what was vexing.  I was running outside on gravel roads and I was up to five miles.  I was not running fast but I was able to knock it out with no distress.  Shin splints were showing up in five minutes on the treadmill....or about 10% of that distance.  I could drop down to walking and the pain disappeared in three minutes.  Kicking up the speed caused the pain to come back in less than five.

Too long a stride

It felt like I was running exactly the same way as I was running outside so I also dismissed "too long a stride".

Heel-strike

This is really a restatement of  "too long a stride".  Dismissed for the same reason.

Shoes

I was wearing a new pair of shoes the first time shin splints raised its ugly head. Switching to an older, proven pair of shoes did not help.

Stretching

One major difference between running outside and running on a treadmill is that every footfall on a treadmill is identical while every footfall on outside surfaces varies.  The outside runner's stride changes to accommodate the unknowable.  The variation in footfalls prevents the runner from falling into the unconscious trap of  extremely limited muscle motions.

Outdoor runners can get lazy with stretching because their chosen surface does the deed for them.

Aside: I found it baffling that factory workers complain about the hardness of the concrete floors and blame it for ruining their knees.  More likely, it is the extreme flatness of the floors and the high calorie burn combined with the short, repetitive excursions of the muscles.  I wonder if adding undulations to the floor and frequent, low, lightweight part picks to stretch hamstrings would reduce knee issues.

Sticky running surface

The surface of the belt on the treadmill is rubber and it is pebbled.  Dirt roads typically have a dusting of sand or loose material on the surface.  A heel-strike on the belt grabs the heel and the leg must fight to prevent the foot from slapping downward.  A heel-strike on gravel skids for a bit which softens the foot slap.  A stride that was good enough on gravel might cause shin-splints when running on treadmills.

What is under my control?

"What is under my control?" The universal question.

I can either drop way back on distance, increase my stretching or I can make a conscious effort to shorten my stride.  As a runner, one does not "shorten their stride", they increase their stride rate.  Instead of smoothly loping along the runner goes into "egg beater" mode.

I tried "egg beater mode" and it seemed to work.  I will add in more stretching before next time.

And yes, "egg beater" seems to have solved the issue.

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