You're a mile into your run and there it is, that all-too-familiar pain down the front of your leg--shin splints. Many experts attribute this common running injury to inflammation of either the tendons connecting the muscle to the shinbone or the sheath wrapping around the bone. Part of the problem may be the much stronger and tighter calf muscles in the rear pulling against the weaker muscles in front.
Sudden increases in mileage and/or intensity, running on hard surfaces, wearing worn-out shoes, or the wrong running shoe for your gait--especially overpronators, whose feet roll inward too much--may also contribute to shin splints.
To stretch tight calves and alleviate pressure on the shins, stand an arm's length in front of a wall with your hands on the wall. Bring one foot forward, keeping the back leg straight and heel pressed into the floor. Lean into the wall for a count of 20. To strengthen front lower-leg muscles, trace the letters of the alphabet with your toes while seated. Stretching the shin may also help (see Try This below).
In the battle of the sexes, women are gaining on men--at least in the highest levels of sports. According to Cal State-Long Beach, there was a huge disparity in power output--how much and how fast the most force is produced--between male and female World and Olympic champion athletes between 1952 and 1972. But measured again between 1976 and 2004, the gap narrowed considerably. The credit goes to Title IX, which passed in 1972 and provided more opportunities for women to participate in athletics and have access to world-class training.
Make Fewer Trips to the Gym
A new study suggests that two days of strength training a week are as good as three, as long as you add an extra set. Twenty-nine untrained volunteers were split into two groups--one trained twice weekly performing three sets of 10 repetitions of nine exercises, the other trained three times a week performing two sets of 10 reps of the same nine exercises. Increases in strength and lean tissue mass were similar for both groups.
Did You Know?
You may not need more recovery time as you age. An Australian study compared cyclists 18 to 31 years old with those 39 to 57 during time trials and found no significant differences in the two groups' ability to recover.
Shin Stretch: On a soft surface, sit with your legs bent directly under your thighs and the tops of your feet against the floor. With one hand on the floor for support, use the other to grab a knee and gently lift it to stretch the shin. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds then lift the other knee.
(Illustration by Damon Wilde.)