- Start warm and limber. Like taffy, muscles are brittle when cold and pliable when warm. Exercise lightly to break a sweat, stretch, then start your activity.
- Add variety. Alternate activities to avoid overusing specific parts of your body.
- Alternate intensity. If you worked out hard yesterday, go easier today. Give your body 1 day of rest a week.
- Listen to your body. If you feel pain, especially in your joints, see a sports medicine doctor.
Shin Splint Rx
Shin splints, a pesky, recurring problem, show up as pain along the front inside of your shin that flares up after you increase your exercise. They are the result of inflammation of the muscles and tendons in that area. To resolve shin splints, apply ice for 20 minutes twice a day. Reduce walking to a level where you do not get pain. Then increase your walking time gradually—no more than 10% a week. (Want to work out more but don’t have the time? Then try Fit in 10, the new workout program that only takes 10 minutes a day.)
To prevent shin splints from recurring, strengthen and stretch the muscles in your lower leg. Here are two do-anywhere moves you can perform daily.
Toe Taps (ankles, shins)
Sitting with feet flat on the floor, simply tap your feet—either together or one at a time—keeping your heels on the floor. Repeat 50 times.
Stand about 18 inches from a wall. Reach out, placing both hands on the wall. Step forward with one foot and backward with the other, keeping toes pointed straight. Hold 20 seconds, then switch legs. Repeat on both legs once more.
If your pain persists, your problem may not be shin splints at all, but something more serious like a stress fracture or compartment syndrome, a problematic condition that involves pressure in the lower leg muscles that results in decreased blood flow and oxygen to the area, leading to permanent muscle damage if left untreated. (Here are the 10 biggest walking pains.)
“Compartment syndrome is often misdiagnosed,” says Lyle Micheli, MD, director of the sports medicine division at Boston Children’s Hospital. “This is frustrating and dangerous for people who have it, because they’re trying to treat it and it won’t go away.” Check the chart below to make sense of your shin pain.