For those aiming for the London marathon or a similar long-distance event, your body may start to protest a little as the miles ramp up! Here are three conditions that can threaten your training schedule:
Shin splints is another name for medial tibial stress syndrome and refers to the pain and inflammation caused by repetitive traction on the bone of the lower leg from muscle and fibrous tissues. It is more common in new runners or if there has been a sudden increase in the amount of running being done. As with all injuries, prevention is better than cure and shin splints can be avoided by varying running surfaces to avoid constant pavement pounding, by building up slowly with training and resting every few days, and by ensuring that your trainers and gait are as they should be. If in doubt, specialist running stores can do a gait analysis with different styles of running shoes. If you have developed shin splints already, the common advice is to rest until it improves, but that is the last thing you want to hear when the marathon is approaching and training is ramping up. You may be able to swap your running for some other training that puts less stress through your legs.
If symptoms are mild you may be able to press through, by wearing compression socks or tape to support the tissues, changing your shoes to vary the impact and choosing softer running surfaces. After a run, use icepacks for 15 minutes or so and remember the usual post-exercise stretches and foam rolling to help as well.
Of course, if pain is getting worse, you will be forced to rest and may need to get it checked out as stress fractures (tiny breaks in the bone surface) can rarely occur in severe cases.
IT band syndrome
The iliotibial or IT band is a band of fibrous tissue called fascia that runs down the outside of the leg from hip to knee. It helps to stabilise the leg during activity but the repetitive movements of long-distance running can cause irritation or tightening in this and other fibrous sheaths, especially as muscles expand beneath. That’s why warm-ups and post-run stretches are important, as well as allowing yourself some rest days. If pain down the outside of your leg is starting to cause trouble, check out some IT band foam rolling techniques and exercises here – in fact, get into the habit now, to stop the problem in the first place.
One of the perils of pounding the pavements for miles is the chafing of nipples against a loose top, leading to soreness and even bleeding, which can make further runs deeply uncomfortable! It can be worse if your top is of rough material, if you are sweating, or conversely if cold, and the longer your run, the greater the risk.
Avoid it happening as your training schedule increases by wearing soft, fine-weave, compression running tops with moisture wicking, designed to reduce sweat and to move with you rather than rub against you. For women, seamless running bras will help. And special nipple-shields or anti-chafing sticks are also available and can help in the healing of sore and sensitive area. Vaseline or plasters can help in an emergency!
It’s more important than ever to keep up a good routine of slow and steady progression, attention to technique, varying of terrain, stretching, rest and recuperation. If you notice any minor aches and pains, don’t just dose up with painkillers and push through, without trying to identify and mitigate the underlying problem, or you may turn a small and easily remedied issue into a proper injury that could derail your plans.
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