With the popularity of HIIT (high intensity interval training) many newbies are discovering the benefits of sprinting. While sprinting can be an awesome fat burning and conditioning workout, it's important to learn how to properly train for sprinting. A client recently emailed some questions about shin splints and sprinting:
Q: I recently started sprinting in the mornings. But today, after sprinting, I noticed I have slight shin splints today. Is that normal? Did I not stretch enough before and after? As a beginner sprinter, should I limit sprinting to just once or twice a week to start? I don't want to get an injury and halt my exercise so your advice is hugely appreciated. -Michelle A: Shin splints can be a result of a couple of issues. The medical term for Shin Splints is medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) and it refers to inflammation and pain on the lower front of the leg or tibia. Generally shin splints are a result of pressure in the lower leg muscles caused by excessive impact (i.e. running). Even the most well conditioned athlete can experience shin splints. It's definitely more common among those new to sprinting and there are a couple of things you can do to properly train for sprinting. 1. Make sure you have proper footwear. Are they shoes designed specifically for running, and when was the last time you had them replaced? In general, running shoes used regularly, should be replaced every 4 months. (People sometimes judge whether to replace their shoes based on the condition of the soles, but this is not a good parameter). If you can bend your shoe lengthwise, they need to go. 2. It also sounds like you may have "jumped" into sprinting without a lot of practice. Warming up is key, as is progression into your top sprints. As a former sprinter, I can tell you the importance of building your speedwork gradually. When you start a sprint lap, you need to gradually accelerate into your "top/sprint" speed and then gradually decelerate as you come out of the sprint. Don't enter into sprint laps "cold." 3. As you train for sprinting on at any athletic level, stretching is crucial. Before your workout it helps to ready your muscles for the sprints, and after your workout stretching will allow blood flow to return to normal and reduce lactic acid build up. Whether or not you should continue to sprint is a good question. In general it's a good idea to listen to your body. Pain is generally a sign that something is wrong, so I think it's probably a good idea for you to lay off the sprints for a little while while your shin splits go away. Tend to the shins as you would any other inflamed area, with the RICE technique (REST, ICE, COMPRESSION, ELEVATION). Stretch them often and examine your shoe situation. Finally, remember to increase your speedwork gradually following the recommendations I've laid out here. I hope this helps. Happy sprinting!