This year, refuse to give up.

I’m not much of a runner. I used to run sprints, but any distance over 400m or so, and I would get blackout-intensity shinsplints. It was embarrassing. On occasion, I like to think of my self as an athlete, but the truth is that I spent much of life unable to run very far, tied down by paralyzing shinsplints.

I felt like Peter in this episode of Family guy

Two options really: give up, and stick to the segway, or else do some learning and figure out how to beat this thing. The body is a machine like any other, after all.

Faster than a speeding rent-a-cop

So I did some research. Shin splints are the result of shear strain, typically on the periosteum of your tibia (shin bone). If your calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) are much stronger than your “shin” muscles (Anterior tibialis) the contractions forced onto it each time your foot pronates can be very painful. Add to this a high-impact running style that encourages this movement and you’ve got a recipe for (painful) disaster.

The common solution to this is to get orthotics. Fancy pieces of plastic that you can stick into your shoe and medically adjust your walking style. Human beings evolved to run — the medical solution felt like I was somehow cheating myself.

Bear with me for a second. This post is not about running.

It seemed there were two paths to a solution: Strengthen the weak muscles in my leg, and change the way I run.

The new exercises added about 5 minutes to my workouts, and changing the way I run took about a month of really trying. (details at the end of this post)

The result: Now, I stop running only when I get bored. No shinsplints. All it took was an attempt at calfsplints.

This is my advice to people when they tell me they’re stuck — whether that means writer’s block, or a sticking point in a sale, or a creative conundrum in their product. Break down your problem into its simplest parts, and try the exact opposite of what you’re doing.

I’ve seen too many people give up on easier obstacles than this one.

This year, refuse to give up.

 

 

— Sidebar: details on my cure to shinsplints

This part is about running. I’m not a doctor or a runner — just a guy who isn’t afraid to try something.

Issue 1: Bone periosteum shear due to strength mismatch between my calf and my tibialis muscle strength.

Solution: Strengthen the muscle. I did mainly two exercises for this — which I found to be most accessible.

Standing Toe Flexion: Pretty simple. Stand at the edge of a stair (or any edge) and move yourself from having your heel below the stair to standing on your tippy-toes.

Do this:

Toe Flexion

Seated Dorsiflexion: If your gym has a place to do weighted calf raises, use it. Instead of the typical calf raise motion, where you would raise the weight with your toes, point your heel and lift the weight by pointing your toes all the way back.

Do this:

Dorsiflexion

Issue 2: Heavy impact running style that encouraged a high shear movement.

Solution: Run smarter. Human beings evolved devices perfectly suited to the run – our feet.

If you look at the way barefoot runners run and the way your typical recreational jogger runs, you will immediately notice two differences. Barefoot runners land each step on the ball of the foot, usually softly cushioned at the knee. “Modern” runners, coddled through life on sneakers with thick and cushiony soles land hard on the heels, with very little cushioning from the outstretched knee.

So I ditched my super comfy running shoes for much more basic ‘barefoot’ shoes. I was among the first people I know to wear the now super-popular Vibram 5-fingers everywhere. And I learned to run in them.

— Sidebar’s Sidebar:

My good friend Laura (somewhat famous for being the youngest woman to run a marathon in every United State) knows a thing or two about running. Her advice for life or running, barefoot or not is similar: take issues and break them down, tackle them one at a time.

“I wanted to keep running 10 miles a week, which was a super easy goal if I thought of it as 1-2 miles a day. Now, when I wake up late, I can ALWAYS get in one mile. and it’s changed my mentality from “I will only go out to run if it’s going to be a long intense workout to every 1/2 mile gets me closer to my goal”

Her post on this gets right to the point: When 10 miles (or 10 sales, or 10 pictures, or 10 lines of code) seem like too many — just run them two at a time.

    • Nice post, buddy. Btw, do you play squash?

      • admin

        I don’t, though I’d be willing to try.