Jim: Running Back

Reflecting back over the past two months, it has been a slow return to my running.

On October 13th, I ran 10.13 miles in a new pair of Ghost 6 shoes; my run two days prior was about 5 miles in Ghost 5 shoes that had about 400 miles on them. During that long run on the bike path, my legs and feet were feeling good, and it was so nice having Terri bike with me for part of the route. The run felt really good, and I was glad to be out. I am pretty bad about keeping up with getting new shoes for myself, and Terri had gotten me a gift certificate at Rapid Transit for the pair I had my eyes on, and they were feeling great.

After the run, I did my typical stretches and rolling out. It was not until the next day that my shins began to feel some pain. It looked like I overdid it in the new shoes as well as ran for too long in the old worn out shoes. So, I waited a bit until I ran again, stretched and took ibuprofen. Three days later, I went out with focusing on form, not speed. A few times on the downhill stretches I had to slow, stop, and start up slow again because of a cramping pain in my left shin. Flat stretches on the route and up hills felt okay. But about 1/3 of the way into my typical 5 mile early morning course when the cramping and knee pain came in one of the longer uphills, I bailed and walked back home. I rolled out my legs, did theraband, and rolled my feet out too; but I was disappointed as it looked like I had some real damage to deal with.

I looked online to what shin splints were, any treatments, exercises, etc. From all I could find, I did not have any stress fractures or tearing, just overused muscles — anterior shin splints (toward the outside of the leg) — that needed a very good change in routine and rest before getting back to running. Fortunately, I had an upcoming doctor’s checkup appointment, and brought up my shin issues to her then. She suggested that if my shins did not get any better in two weeks that I should let her know and she could refer me to an orthopedic specialist. So for the next couple of weeks I iced my shins in the evening, and wrapped the left one with an Ace bandage for compression. Terri gave me a pair of 110% compression socks that she had gotten as part of her Ragnar Relay goodies, but were too long for her to use. Instead of running, I went to the gym on campus and used an elliptical machine or stationary bike to reduce the amount of impact my shins were taking yet keeping up my cardio activity.

I also worked in calf stretching exercises along with theraband stretches to strengthen the anterior tibialis (front portion of lower leg), and a few other stretches at home. Quite a number of the exercises for abductor, adductor, and other strengthening stretches I already do at the gym on Nautilus equipment, and I just made sure to keep them in a solid mix of activities. I also roll my feet on a medium spiky plastic ball to keep away any plantar fasciitis pains that seem to have crept in.

Nearly three weeks of not running and going to the gym 4-5 times a week helped my shin splints heal. I started out with a warm up five minute brisk walk, then a easy 1 minute jog for a minute to see how everything felt. My mind remembers the times before the injury and I wanted to run like a dog off leash, but I held back keeping mightily aware of any twinge or discomfort. After 27 minutes, my left shin started to feel like it would cramp up even at a slow pace so I stopped my timer and walked home and stretched out. This confirmed it would be a slow come-back.

So my morning routine has became 30 minutes of shin exercises with the help of our cat, Mr. B; up to a 5 minute warm up walk, 30-60 minute run, then a cool down walk and stretches. One early return to running highlight included no shin pain and a speed limit sign with radar unit that had me clocking in at 5 mph in a 25 mph zone on a modest uphilll grade.

My distance has gradually increased over time: Week 1: 2.64; Weeks 2: 3.01, 3.03, 3.92; Week 3:  3.52, 3.76, 5.11;  Week 4: 3.9, 4.39, 5.23; Week 5: 4.84, 5.71; Week 6: 5.09, 5.05, 6.93; and today at Week 7: 5.58 miles.

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This morning running almost 6 miles in a beautiful snowfall was very nice. We were unable to run at the Celtic Solstice Five Mile Road Race in Baltimore because of the expected wintery weather mix, and Terri is working hard at PT for back and hip issues to get back to her running. In my mind, I just want to keep up the steady progress of adding distance and time without injury. It is heartening seeing the progress, and yet frustrating at times to not be at a quicker pace. Lessons to be learned are to not let my shoes get so high in mileage before retiring them, and keeping up with the mix of stretches and exercises both at home and at the gym to stay healthy and injury free. I am looking forward to Spring when I hope to be able work my way back to 10 miles at a good pace. Patience is key to it all, though.

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