How can we bring the track and the calf together and leave the shin splints in the dust?
There are many theories about the nature and causes of shin splints; however, all agree that the calf muscle is involved. It is certainly the case that shin splints can sometimes be overcome by changing the way you use your calves during running.The key is to look at the relationship between the foot and the front of the shin as the foot hits the ground.
Many pros like Fuhr run with their knees and chest forward, and the feet and hips back, as if leaning into a wall. Because of this position the knee stays in front of the foot, which allows the calf to stretch before push-off and contract afterward.
Many amateurs throw the foot forward, and the angle of the foot to shin comes close to 90 degrees or more at impact. In this case your calf is tight both when your foot hits the track and when you lift your foot off the track. Simultaneous impact and contraction subjects the muscles of your lower leg to eccentric strain, which can be the very cause of calf/shin splint problems.
To reduce eccentric strain in your calves, run in place with your hands on a wall. Notice the effect as you move your feet further from the wall. Lead with the chest, and keep your knees in front of your feet. As you lean, you add a forward momentum to your running with no additional effort.
Next, experiment with different positions when you run. The feet will either push you forward or pull you forward. The greatest power is in the push. Get the contact of the feet behind you, adjust your weight forward, and let gravity help.
For maintenance of the calf and prevention of shin splints the above mechanics are primary. However, they are not enough. Calves enjoy stretches and self-massage. All calf stretches work. It helps to have stretches you can use in different positions such as standing, seated and lying down.
The best time to stretch your calf is first thing in the morning or a few hours after a workout. As a triathlete, you cannot overstretch your calves. As for self-massage, use a tennis ball, a short broom handle, your thumbs or The Stick.
Calves love attention and all attempts to help them will help your running. Stay in tune with your running mechanics, make the changes, be good to your calves and race and train forever.
Brian Dorfmans proven techniques keep triathletes performing at their peak. Brian can be reached at www.briandorfman.com.