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Shin Splint Recovery

by Ashley
(San Antonio, Texas)

Hi, a LOT of information on your website has helped me - thank you. I am definitely suffering from shin splints... I am in the middle of training for a full marathon - it is one month away and it is my first.

My question is how will stopping my running at this point affect my training AND what alternative cardio do you suggest?

My longest run has been 18 miles. I am supposed to average 15-20 miles each week during the next 2 weeks and complete a 14 miler & 20 miler in the next 2 weekends prior to tapering down the week before the race. How much time should I rest my shins and can I still expect to finish the race?

Thanks - looking forward to an answer.

Answer by Dominique:
Hi there,
Thanks for your question about shin splints. Sorry to not answer immediately, I have been sick for a little while and there is a little backlog of questions at the moment I am trying to work through.

Shin splints are pretty bad news. The best you can do is take a break from running, ice your shins and stretch the affected area a number of times per day via heel drops and heel raises. There are also a few dedicates shin splint products available that may help you. See my shin splints-page for more information.

What to do now is quite a loaded question. The best cardio you can do is bike riding I guess, although it will not prepare you for a marathon the way running does. But it is a good cross-training activity to maintain your current fitness levels.

And I don't know if you will be able to run that marathon or not. If the shin splints are not completely gone by race day, I would advise you to not run it. It is way more important to stay injury-free and keep on running for the next few years, than trying to run that marathon and create yourself some longer-term damage.

Another reason to potentially postpone your first marathon attempt is your marathon training schedule. I haven't seen your full marathon training schedule, but it concerns me that uptil now you have only gotten up to an 18-miles run. It looks like you are only going to hit 20 miles once this training cycle and due to the shin splints you may now not do that.

Ideally you had done five or six 20-milers in your training period. Unless your training compensates its lack in mileage with increased intensity I think you are going to hit the wall at mile 18/19.

There is a more modern training approach out there that does focus more on intensity and less on the 20-milers. I have seen a number of marathon training programs recently that only contain one or two 20-milers, but then add in lots of 13-17 mile runs at higher intensity.

You definitely need to compensate, you can't just rely on a lower-mileage training program to get you to the finish comfortably.

An approach I recently learned about is Marius Bakken's 100 Day Marathon Plan. He uses higher intensity training as an important building stone of his marathon training schedules and periodisation which involves 5k-training and 10k-training before moving on to marathon training.

Another idea he has had success with is run/walks for the longer distances to maximise time on the road whilst keeping these training sessions doable and helping you recover sooner. He has coached quite a few 'normal' people to impressive marathon personal records already.

I would be much more comfortable if you decided to not race your marathon, but get well first. Then use the base you have built with your current training and use one of Marius' training schedules to get you to the finish line within 100 days.

More information about the 100 Day Marathon Plan can be found in my newsletter.

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Hope this helps.
Best of luck.

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