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This month read our expert’s advice on how to treat shin splints.

OUR EXPERT Paula Coates is a chartered physiotherapist and clinical specialist based in London working at Balance Performance Physiotherapy. She is an international seminar speaker and author. Published books include Running Repairs – A Runner’s Guide to Keeping Injury Free (A&C Black). She’s also very fit and has run eight marathons with a ninth one planned!

WHAT ARE THEY? Shin splints describe a variety of pains that occur in the front of the lower leg along the tibia (shin bone) and the connective tissues that attach your muscles to your tibia. The medical term for this condition is medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). It often occurs after repeated stress or exercise without appropriate recovery between training sessions. The pain is typically felt on the front part of the lower leg or pain on the back inside of the lower leg. The most serious form of MTSS is a stress fracture.

WHAT CAUSES THEM? The main causes are training too hard and increasing your mileage too quickly. Running or jumping on hard surfaces will make things worse. Repeated use makes the muscles swell and puts pressure on the fascia that covers the muscles in the lower leg causing pain. Other biomechanical issues, such as over-pronation when running, have been linked to shin splints. Muscle imbalance between the back and front of the leg is common and can result from not stretching. Trainers are important, worn out shoes lacking in support or not suitable for your foot type can cause shin pain.


It can be one of the most frustrating conditions to suffer from as you need to rest and returning to activity must be done gradually or you risk re-injury. Change your routine and cut your exercise time and intensity so that you have no discomfort before, during or after exercise. Treatment must start with rest, ice, compression, and then

you can look into other things you can change. Acupuncture, ultrasound and taping your shins can help with the pain, but strengthening and stretching alongside propreocetive and balance exercises will address the causes of the problem. Ensure your trainers are correct for your foot type, consult a podiatrist for assessment for orthotics. Returning to running must be done gradually; cross train until you are pain-free. If your shin pain continues after three weeks of self-

management, you should consider seeing your physiotherapist for an alternative diagnosis. You may need to see a sports physician for further investigations.

Balance Performance Physiotherapy 113 Gauden Road, Clapham, London, SW4 6LE, Tel: 020 76272308 Web: Online shop: Facebook: BalancePerformanceLondon Twitter:

44 ■ RUNNING FREE a Meditation on the Move

Julia Armstrong is a lifelong runner and all-round running philosopher. She’s run a 2.36 marathon and ranks second in the UK for V50. Every month she shares her thoughts. Catch up at

Letting go

Running is forward motion; one step in front of the other. Runners drive hard to the next goal, the next race ahead. There is always the possibility of dreams realised – or shattered! In any race the tapestry

of life unravels and weaves again within the story of each person who makes the journey from gun to finish line. A race story is as complex as each human being. We all want to feel good, succeed and realise our highest potential. But what if, to truly

realise our highest potential, we have to let go and stay in the step, rather than racing to the next one? Our whole culture is determined by what we do and have, and the successes we have achieved. Did you win? What time did you run? The stopwatch starts and

stops, and in that time it can seem that we have our sense of self measured by the ticking of the clock. What if we felt good about ourselves anyway, and the run was simply an expression of that? Then we could surrender any judgment, and let go of deciding how we felt about ourselves from the result. This doesn’t in any way mean we shouldn’t have goals and strive for

excellence. We can look up to the stars and reach for our highest and best expression, look to the peak of the mountain and be honest about the hurdles and the challenges. Set realistic goals, without comparing ourselves harshly to others. There is only one you and it is not for you to decide whether your imprint on the planet is good or bad. It is for you to do your best to get out of the way of yourself and clear any of the blocks that will stop you letting all of you out in the run. We are always only

racing ourselves, we can only ever be the best that we can be, so comparisons can be negative – unless we’re inspired. The main point of the

endeavour should be that you improve as a person and that your training accesses and develops you. And in ways that will improve the whole of your life. This way around, you can inspire others too. You are not a lesser person if you run times that are slower than others, any more than you are a better person if you run faster. Let go of resistance or fear of the stretch – or attachment to the end result – and you’ll soon find the sky really is the limit.

Meet Julia at the next training weekend in Eastbourne, with Editor Fiona Bugler, RF’s Personal Trainer Mike Ovens, and Nutritionist Lucy Ann Prideaux. for more information.


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