Running advice for a complete and total noob.
July 27, 2016 6:45 AM   Subscribe

I have recently decided that I would like to start running a few times a week for exercise with the dog. I have learned a lot in the two weeks that I have been trying this thing out, but I feel like I may be doing some things wrong. Looking for advice about pre-running/post running routines that may help out with leg pain... specifically... shin splints. Or any other good advice for someone who literally knows nothing about running.

I finally found a comfortable pace for me, I don't have problems with endurance or breathing, the only thing stopping me from doing more are my legs. I'm doing interval running and while I am usually okay when I am running, if I stop to walk my legs are wanting to cramp up. And afterward.. OOOHHH the shin splints. I'm already using KT tape and icing my shins after runs. I'm not sure what else I can do. My shoes are probably around 6 months old, and I'm shopping for a new pair, but the ones I have shouldn't be too terribly far off the mark at this point. I've been told that I will just have to push through the shin splints to come out on the other side. How far does that mean to push myself? If my having pain from a run the day before should I rest the next day? Or should I try to keep moving? When you were very new to running what was the best advice someone gave you? Or what do you wish you had known when you were very first starting out? Best pre/post run routines etc.

(Right now I've just been running intervals for about 2.5 miles on running trails)
posted by Quincy to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I think shin splints are usually the product of going too far and/or too fast too soon. When I've started out, I have focused on running for x amount of time rather than distance. If that amount of time is challenging, I slow down, even if that means something like speed walking. Work towards being able to run for 30 minutes comfortably, then increase your speed and/or distance. If you're sore the day after, give it another day. In my experience, giving myself time to heal leads to faster recovery (the first time I do a run, I might feel sore for three days but the third time, I'm only sore for one day). Be patient with yourself and have fun!
posted by kat518 at 6:57 AM on July 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

The shin splints are almost definitely due to poorly fitted shoes. I can't overstate the importance of finding a pair that suits your gait and isn't too tight--my running shoes are 1-1.5x my street shoe size.

Another thing you can do to minimize issues with your knees and lower legs is work on strengthening your hips. Here are some of the classic hip strengthening exercises for runners.

Really, though, it's the shoes. Get new ones professionally fitted at a reputable running shop ASAP. You do not have to suffer through shin splints.
posted by Superplin at 6:57 AM on July 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

I started couch to 5K about 4 weeks ago from literally nothing. I also had shin splints. 2 things helped me so that now I don't get those anymore. 1. If you walk as a warm up, also include walking on your heels to stretch out the shin muscles, and 2. Shorten your stride. It may feel like you are just taking short baby running steps, but i started out with those and then, slooowly, got over shin splints and have adjusted my stride accordingly. But the short stride at the beginning is what helped me not to give up from the pain and discomfort. GOOD LUCK!
posted by alchemist at 6:58 AM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had a lot of luck quelling shin splints by stretching the front of my lower legs, in addition to my calves. Try this:

Barefoot, behind a couch or something else you can put some weight on. Make a fist with one foot - that is, roll the toes down so the tops of your toes are on the floor. (You'll have to bend your knee.) Squat a little, slowly, keeping your torso leaned slightly forward, and feel the shin muscles stretch. Now the other foot.

After you get the feel of it, lean forward and put some weight on the couch via your arms. Hold on. Roll *both* feet over so your feet are pointed but your toes are curled under. Your body weight will be transferring to the floor via the long bones of your feet. Now squat again, slooooowwwwwly. Keep your quads tight and lower yourself down. Your butt will stick out. You'll feel the stretch.

Over time, your shin muscles will gain strength to balance your quads, and the stretch won't be as necessary. Stretching like this, at least, will help in the interim.

If you have a foam roller, rolling the shins (face down) can help, too.
posted by notsnot at 6:59 AM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have never been "A Runner" but 5ish years ago I started, just like you. I had lots of shin splints. Then I read Chi Running and started using minimalist shoes - I used those dorky Five Fingers because I was mostly on trails. I slowed my pace from tortoise to glacial (but I'm up to lazy dog, now) when I started all this but no shin splints since. My theory is my more padded shoes were hiding the discomfort of bad form and the book gave me ideas for better form. Now I wear lightweight shoes with very little padding.
posted by adorap0621 at 6:59 AM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

To be honest, a lot of people that I know who suffer from shin splits are same people who are unfit, and haven't been running regularly or at all.

This is because a lot of them don't really know how to run properly. They start from a walk, then push it up to a semi walk-run, which is where a lot of problems occur. A run is not a faster version of a walk. A run uses very different muscle groups from walking. When walking, most people don't use their glutes very much, and use their quads to 'brake' their forward movement. To run effectively, you need to learn to use your glutes, and not 'brake' your forward movement

First tip would be to keep your hips high.

Second tip would be don't drop into a seating position when running.

Third tip would be read as many physiotherapist blogs about running and/ or glutes as possible. I read Kinetic Revolution blog.

If you ski, it's a like the difference between the pizza and the french fry -- one involves braking and leaning backwards, while the french fry, your centre of mass is on or over your ankles as you lean forwards.

-- From a regular runner.

P.s. Poorly fitted shoes are rarely the problem if one knows how to run correctly. Sure, they may make a small bit of difference over a long run, but if you are getting agonizing shin splits on every run, then you're running wrong. Humanity evolved by running barefoot, not by wearing wads of padding.
posted by moiraine at 7:00 AM on July 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

Many novice runners ramp up mileage too quickly. Just because your lungs and heart are good to go does not mean that your bones and joints are acclimated to running. That you have shin splints suggests that you've ramped mileage up too quickly! Take a week off and start a couch to 5k program. That will introduce mileage to your bones and joints at a pace that doesn't overwhelm them.
posted by u2604ab at 7:01 AM on July 27, 2016 [9 favorites]

1. Keep a training journal with what you ran, how it felt, and what hurt.

2. Shin splints here are most likely, as others have said, the result of your cardiovascular system being more fit than your leg muscles and connective tissue. Drop down mileage and intensity, then ramp back up, way more slowly than you feel like you ought to be.

3. I wish I had known about minimalist shoes and the barefoot running stride when I started out. It was the right approach for me, which I discovered 12 years after I started running. Others wear big, cushiony shoes and do well. But I think the default for a new runner ought to be minimalist shoes, moving to thick cushions only if your genetics require it.
posted by radicalawyer at 7:05 AM on July 27, 2016

I haven't had shin splints so I can't comment specifically on that, but when I first started running I had terrible, terrible Plantar Fasciitis and awful leg cramping.

It was awful... and most definitely a product of me starting too fast too soon and expecting to be able to run as fast as I wanted for as long as I wanted without properly giving my body time to adjust!

But now 2 years later I'm still running regularly and all of the problems I had with my legs are gone. I went to a good chiropractor for orthotics and shock treatment to get rid of the PF, and after a few sessions of getting my body in alignment, all is well.

I agree that you might need to cut back on the distance you are running right now and go a bit slower. You also might not want to run as often - cut that back to twice a week and fit in some other strengthening exercises on other days. Proper running shoes are also very important.....
posted by JenThePro at 7:15 AM on July 27, 2016

I'm just a long time runner and there are many, many fierce opinions on the subject but here is mine.

Shin splints are caused by trying to hold your toes up. You are trying to catch your heel and quickly rollover to your toes. Land on your toes but don't try to keep your heel off the ground. Land on your toes then have your heel come down and then push forward. Sounds weird, but once you get it you realize this is how you are designed to run.

I think of it as: "Your calves and quads keep you level; your hamstrings and butt push you forward."

Anyway, good luck; I hope you keep it up.
posted by lowtide at 7:27 AM on July 27, 2016

This has a good break down of solutions.
posted by drezdn at 7:46 AM on July 27, 2016

I had a terrible time with shin splits when I started running— it would be enough to make me give up for a good while, then I'd repeat the sad cycle.

The cure for the shin splints for me at least was taking a few lessons from the barefoot running crowd and not hitting the ground with my heel first. Now I hit with the area just behind the three toes on the outside of my foot, that rolls (essentially instantly) to the mid-foot, then I try (and I'm still getting in the habit) of having my heel touch the ground after that during the push-off.

When I started the new technique, my heel was never touching the ground, which left my calve muscles too tight. I think honestly just getting more muscle in my thigh/butt is the major thing making it all easier :)
posted by Static Vagabond at 7:51 AM on July 27, 2016

Running requires three kinds of fitness: cardiovascular, muscular, and skeletal. You can feel fit with two if the three, and then get injured in the area you have a deficit.

Pain is your body's way of saying you have a deficit that demands you reduce the intensity (length, speed, hills, surface type) of your runs.

With shin splints two weeks in, one cause is weak shin muscles that have not yet adapted to lifting your foot up rapidly over distance. Another cause is that your shinbones aren't adapted to the impact of running.

I'd dial the runs back and see if you recover. If not I'd check whether the shoes are in good repair and fit well.
posted by zippy at 8:53 AM on July 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also six months is old for sneakers you're going to run in. You may feel better once you replace them.
posted by zippy at 8:54 AM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

How many times is "a few times a week"? I don't have experience with shin splints, but as a relatively new runner, I would suggest you rest the day after each run regardless of how you feel. Use some of your rest days to cross-train instead with something that will help build your core strength (yoga is my personal preference).
posted by treachery, faith, and the great river at 9:17 AM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I ran track in high school and suffered from terrible shin splints every year. (I didn't run in the off season because SHIN AGONY.) You have my sympathy for sure.

As a mid-40s guy I just started running a little again myself. Only a one-mile loop each morning before breakfast, but something is better than nothing. But it also means I am building up my leg muscles again slowly, which I think will be important.

Good luck, and hang in there!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:23 AM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another reason to invest in a good pair of shoes is that it can reduce the risk of stress fractures. I was running on some really old New Balance shoes for a few weeks and I'm pretty sure that I have a stress fracture in my right foot, which has really reduced the amount of running (although not all exercise) that I have been able to do.

Take good care of your feet!
posted by Fister Roboto at 9:55 AM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

(I ended up with a stress fracture in my foot -- which broke clean through during a 400m race, rather painfully and suddenly -- probably because of lousy shoes. GET GOOD SHOES.)
posted by wenestvedt at 11:43 AM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

nth-ing form over shoes.

Tried to get off my lazy ass a long time ago, shin splints caused me to stop.

After a lot of reading, decided to start running a few years back and not have my heel be the first thing that hit the ground. No shin splints.
posted by booooooze at 1:14 PM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

You shouldn't be in pain during or after a run! It is very important to adapt your body to running gradually.

You have to force yourself to take things much slower. Try following the Couch to 5k program, running every other day. Once you can run 5k pain-free, you can do advanced things like interval workouts
posted by monotreme at 2:53 PM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, you have to be careful about suddenly having your dog run. Dogs can get muscle pains and strain things and if the dog isn't used to running often, it's possible for it to be injured.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:06 PM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

For me I believe that all of the above items mentioned by others contribute(d) to shin splints. Don't roll through your heels (even if you do while walking, slowly transition to not doing it while running), shorten your stride (I have short legs so doing this initially made me slower but I got used to it), don't run too much too quickly (rest days, stretching, and cross training), find well fitting shoes, and increase overall fitness (weight = stress on joints). You can do it!
posted by Red Desk at 11:23 PM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

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