Just recently, I went back to jogging as my cardio exercise. I have been out of shape for a very long time. The last time I remember, I was in college when I last hit the gym and after that, I stopped exercising altogether. The only exercise I was doing after that was running around late for work, doing the groceries half-walking and half-running and of course, running around hyperactive toddlers.
I used to play soccer in high school so I was used to running as many as five times around the oval everyday. However, no matter how frequent I used to run, I never really liked it because I always suffered from any of the following – calf cramps, side stitches, uncomfortable tightness around my lower leg due to blood pooling and shin splints. Of the four I mentioned, the latter seemed to persist. So out I went for a “quest” to prevent this the next time I run.
Stretch the Right Muscle
Shin splints affect the tibialis anterior muscle that stretches at the outer front of your lower leg. Before going into an exercise regimen or starting a high impact exercise, it is imperative that you stretch and warm up your muscles to prevent injuries.
To stretch the tibialis anterior muscle kneel with your foot in plantar flexion. Slowly sit on your heel so the weight of your body add stretch to the muscle. Lean back to progress your stretching.
Another alternative is to put both hands on the wall with one leg behind the other like you are pushing the wall. Keep your hips hyperextended and your knees extended. Point your toes until you feel a stretch on the angle in between your foot and leg and on your shin.
Do not forget to stretch your calf muscles too. A tight calf can also cause the tibialis anterior to exert more effort than usual to dorsiflex the foot.
Go Easy on the Load
Shin splints usually indicate excess loading stress to the tibialis anterior muscle. If you are a beginner just like me, start with brisk walking and do a combination of walking-running. Increase your running time by 10% to slowly progress and give time for your muscles to get accustomed to the load.
Strengthen Your Muscles
In order to help your tibialis anterior muscles to adjust to stress, strengthen it by doing resistance exercises.
Heel drop is performed by standing on your toes at the edge of a step or raised platform. Slowly lower your one heel down while raising one foot up. Repeat alternately with the other foot.
Another exercise involves using a resistance band. Loop the resistance band around your foot and perform ankle dorsiflexion while letting somebody counteract the movement. Repeat 10 times for each foot in two sets.
In case your tibialis anterior feels sore, common management includes icing with massage, stretching the calf muscles, rest from high impact activities, and using arch support inserts to provide additional protection against injury.