Category Archives: Exercise

Why Shin Splints Happen and How to Never Deal With Them Again

There are few things every runner agrees on. The best running shoe, the most accurate GPS watch, and whether KT tape really works are all up for debate in running communities.

One thing all runners can all agree? Shin splints (pain along either or both of the shinbones) are the absolute worst—second only to a DNFnext to our online race results.

Studies suggest that up to 20 percent of runners experience shin splints, an overuse injury technically known as media tibial stress syndrome, or MTSS . They can range from a stress injury (the swelling of your shinbone) to a stress fracture (a crack in your bone), saysJordan Metzl, M.D., a sports medicine physician and author ofRunning Strong.

Since the catch-all term applies to many different pain points, it’s often difficult to identify the actual root of the problem. “Some people feel pain in the muscle, others feel it right in the tibia (shinbone), while still others feel pain at the knee,” explains Mike Young, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, track and field coach, and founder of Athletic Lab. And that makes easing the pain a challenge.

The Science Behind the “Ouch”

Shin Splints

There are two types of shin splints: bone- and muscle-related.

Ninety percent of shin splints stem from the shinbone, meaning the bone gets sore from running or another impact-related activity and starts to swell, says Metzl, who’s also an endurance athlete (he’s finished 33 marathons and 12 Ironman races). If not treated correctly, that stress injury can turn into a stress fracture, causing more pain and requiring an even longer recovery period.

The other 10 percent of shin splints are caused by muscle-related issues. In this instance, the muscle in the front of the leg (the tibialis anterior) starts to swell. As the muscle engorges, the tendons around it become too tight, causing pain. If you can (gently) apply pressure to your shinbone without a ton of pain, your injury is likely muscle-related.

Unsurprisingly, shin splints are more common in runners, specifically long-distance runners who cover a significant amount of miles. But athletes who experience big impacts on hard surfaces, like basketball players jumping on asphalt courts, also have a history of shin splints, Young says.

No matter your exercise, three major factors are at the root of shin splints, Metzl explains. First there’s the mechanics of your body: If your feet roll inward when you run (a.k.a. underpronation) or you’re over-striding, extra unnecessary force could be loaded onto your tibia bone, causing discomfort . Second, increasing how far or how often you run too quickly can trigger the pain. Lastly, the lower your bone density (which peaks at age 30), the greater your risk, and high BMI levels have also been linked to shin splints.

An Ounce of Prevention…

Man Running Outside

The old adage holds true: The best way to get rid of shin splints is never to get them in the first place. By the time a runner seeks medical attention, often the damage has already been done, Metzl says. That’s why it’s so important for runners to listen to their bodies and educate themselves.

One rule to always keep in mind: “Never increase your mileage by more than 10 percent from the week before,” says Marnie Kunz, a Brooklyn-based running coach. (For example, if you run a total of 10 miles one week, add on 1 mile the next for a total of 11.) On those runs, vary the surface type so you aren’t always on asphalt, Young suggests. Try occasionally running on a bridle path or grass to reduce the likelihood of overuse.

Being aware of any pain in your shins (and scaling back accordingly) is another way to prevent long-term distress, but it’s crucial to strengthen your lower legs and feet. Add foot-strengthening exercises such as rolling out your arches over a lacrosse ball, jumping in sand, and running barefoot to your routine, Young suggests.

Eccentric calf raises are also great, says Abigail Bales, a running coach and personal trainer. Stand on a flat surface, holding onto something for balance, and press up and balance on the balls of your feet. Distribute your weight evenly between your first and second toes. Slowly lower back down to your heels over a five-second count, aiming for your weight to land on the outside of the back of your heels last. Do three sets of five to eight reps.

Work on ankle mobility several times a week too, Bales recommends: Step one foot forward and bend the front knee as far forward as it can go, without the heel lifting off the ground. It’s OK to let your knee go over the angle of the ankle, since you won’t be putting weight on it—it’s about mobility, not strength. Do 20 reps on each side.

And (to add one more thing to the list) don’t neglect all-aroundstrength training, Metzl advises. “The stronger the glutes and core, the better position you’re in when you run—and the less likely you are to get shin splints.”

8 Ways to Relieve the Pain

Feet RunningSo, despite following the above advice, you overdid it while training for your first half-marathon and your lower legs are begging for mercy. Fortunately, there are a number of steps to take to alleviate shin splints.

1. Rest.

Sorry, all you type-A athletes: Sometimes you’ve just gotta take a few days off. “Pain in general is your body’s way of telling you to scale back,” Young says. Take a few days off from running until the pain subsides, Bales recommends. If you’re antsy to move while you wait it out, try lower-impact activities like cycling, water running, or resistance training.

2. Check your kicks.

Look at your athletic shoes to ensure they’re fitted correctly, and try orthodics to see if they can provide relief, Young says. Research has found that shock-absorbing insoles can help prevent shin splints .

3. Analyze your gait.

This will help you determine if you’re underpronating or overpronating, Kunz says. Check to see if your local running store offers complimentary gait analysis, or a physical therapist can also help assess your gait pattern.

4. Foam roll.

Yep, this tried-and-true recovery method also comes in handy for shin splints. If you are experiencing muscular shin pain, Metzl recommends using the foam roller on your calves and around the affected areas.

5. Ice it.

If the discomfort is bone-related, icing your shins and taking anti-inflammatories is the way to go. Ice and elevate your shins for at least 20 minutes twice a day to ease pain and swelling, Kunz says.

6. Consider supplements.

To build up your bone mass, Metzl suggests including plenty of calcium and vitamin D in your diet.

7. Shed some pounds.

This may be the most difficult, yet crucial, step to relieving pain. Dropping a few pounds will alleviate the relative force put on your body as you move, Young says.

8. See the pros.

If pain persists, Kunz recommends seeing a doctor or physical therapist for a diagnosis so you know you have shin splints and not something more serious.



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5 Things You Should Never Do Before You Work Out


Craft a killer playlist. Get dressed in your workout best. Perform a light warm-up. You know what to do to get ready for an awesome workout. But there are some things you should never—and we mean never, ever—do before a workout. Like these five workout-wrecking mistakes:

1. Drink Just One Glass of Wine at Happy Hour
“Any amount of alcohol before working out is too much,” says certified strength and conditioning specialist Mike Donavanik. “Depending on the tolerance level one may have, it may affect some more than others—but either way, you’re looking at possible drowsiness, dehydration, narrowing of your blood vessels, impaired motor function, and a number of other side effects, which just aren’t conducive to working out.” What’s more, drinking even one glass of alcohol can lower your blood-sugar levels, which can lead to everything from shakiness and weakness to flat-out injury, says Georgie Fear, R.D., author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss.

2. Chug More Than a Few Cups of Water
It’s an hour before your workout, and you just realized you’ve drunk shockingly little so far that day, so you down a bunch of water. We’ve all done it. But if you drink too much, it could backfire. Your kidneys can process close to a liter of water an hour, so if you drink more than that, you could put yourself at risk of a rare but serious condition called hyponatremia, in which the blood becomes diluted and the concentration of sodium ions drops too low, says Fear. Symptoms include a loss of energy, muscle weakness, and cramps, none of which make for a good workout. On the more dangerous end of things, it can cause seizures and coma.

Luckily, it’s unlikely that you’re going to down a two-liter bottle of water before your workout, but Donavanik recommends capping your intake even lower: at to two to three cups of water two to three hours before exercise—for your stomach’s sake. “If you have a stomach full of water and you’re doing intense exercise like sprints, jumps, and inversions, you feel that water moving around in your stomach—and it’s super unpleasant,” he says. “It can also cause you to cramp, feel nauseated, and possibly throw up.”

3. Hit Up the Indian Food Buffet
“Eating a big, spicy meal is a no-no if you don’t want reflux or heartburn during your workout,” says Fear. It doesn’t sound pretty: “Combined with jostling around, a full stomach increases the risk of acidic stomach contents contacting and irritating the inside of the esophagus and giving you that familiar heartburn sensation,” she says. ​“Reflux can torpedo your workout by making it less comfortable to work at your full intensity, giving you a sour taste in your mouth or even causing you enough pain to pack it in early.” ​

Plus, even if you somehow sidestep heartburn (lucky you), you still may have cramping and reduced exercise function to deal with. “If you start to work out while your body is still digesting food, the body now has to also shunt blood into the muscles being worked,” says Donavanik. “So now you aren’t getting enough blood supply to your stomach to help properly digest your food, and you aren’t getting an adequate blood supply to your muscles.” If you’re planning an intense workout, avoid meat, eggs, corn, and anything else that’s hard for your stomach to break down within a couple hours of hitting the gym. Stick with lighter foods, like fruit and carbs, within a couple hours of your workout, he says. Bonus: Since they are easily digestible, your body will actually be able to use them to help you power your workout.

4. Have Crazy, Wild Sex
“If two people are really going at it, sex can be detrimental pre-workout because you’re expending a lot of energy,”  says Donavanik. “Not just that, but during sex, oxytocin is released, which kind of mellows you out and gives you those feel-good vibes. So if you’re planning a hardcore bootcamp workout, skip the pre-workout sex.”

5. Try to Touch Your Toes
Static stretching (think: bend and hold) before a workout is a no-go. “When you work out, your muscles need to contract as intensely and forcefully as possible,” says Donavanik. “So when you put them in a stretched state beforehand, you limit their ability to do their job efficiently. It’s like you’re taking away their tools for success.” For instance, in one study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, exercisers who static stretched before performing a squat reduced their strength by 8.36 percent and lower-body stability by 22.68 percent, compared to those who performed dynamic stretches before getting their squat on.

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5 Tips to Make Weight-Lifting Easier

5 Tips to Make Weight-Lifting Easier

Lighting weights can be a great way to get fit and build muscle mass, but it’s easy to get lost along the way. If you’re new to strength training, it can be hard to know which exercises to do, when and how to do them, and how to keep yourself motivated. To help you out, we’ve collected our five best tips to make strength training way easier.

1. Simple is Always Better

When you first start out in the weight room, it is not uncommon to be overwhelmed by all the choices you have and the advice you will receive. You don’t have to do everything perfect the first time, and your lifting routine doesn’t have to be the Mona Lisa of all workouts. Start with basic standby exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses and shoulder presses. Learn how to do each exercise, pick a weight, number of sets and reps, and do them. As you progress and learn more about weights and their effect on your body, you will be able to vary your routine and make it more complex. For now, just keep it simple.

2. Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard

Know your limits. Figure out how much your maximum lift is for each exercise, and then lift less than that. There’s no point in straining with a weight you can barely lift, because your form will be off and you’ll do more damage to your body than anything else. In the same way, don’t do more sets than you can handle. Three or four sets of each lift should be plenty. If you do more, you might start to get sloppy with your technique. Be patient and you will achieve your goals sooner than you think.

3. Always Know Your Plan

Coming up with a schedule both short term and long term will help you set goals and stick to them. Having particular days and times set up to go to the gym and workout will motivate you to stay focused on your fitness, and you’ll be less likely to miss days. Skipping or forgetting about even one workout in your schedule can set you back, so make sure you have a good way of reminding yourself. You can set reminders in your phone’s calendar, or ask a friend or family member to text you reminders on your workout days.

4. Record Everything in a Journal

Ideally, you should be increasing the weight that you lift each week. Write down the lifts you did, how much you lifted, and how many reps you did after every workout. This way it will be much easier to remember where you are, and you can track your progress as you go. You’ll be able to see how far you’ve come, and achieve the goals you set for yourself. Journaling only takes a few minutes, and it’s worth it to help yourself stay focused.

5. Don’t Forget to Eat

One of the most important things you can do to maximize the effect of weight lifting is to eat something after your workout. Of course, you want to make sure that what you’re eating has the nutrients you need to stay healthy and grow muscle mass. Eat something that has lots of carbohydrates and protein. There are many options for post-workout snacks, but you could always go with the classics, like a protein shake or a bottle of chocolate milk.

Working out doesn’t have to be a chore. With the right mindset and a dedication to improving yourself, you can lift weights and have fun. As you go on your strength training journey, there will be many people trying to give you advice about how to work out correctly. Just remember, while there are many philosophies on weight lifting, the one that works for you might not be the same as the one that works for someone else. Experiment, be safe, and have a good time.


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The (15 Minute) Belly Blasting Workout


MOVE 1Stability Ball Pelvic Tilt Crunch
Grab a five-to 10-pound medicine ball (or dumbbell). Lying faceup on a stability ball with your upper back and head pressed against the ball and your feet together on the floor, hold the medicine ball against your chest. Brace your abs and crunch up until your shoulders are off the ball. Then reach the ball toward the ceiling. Lower it and return to the starting position. Do 12 to 15 reps.Tip: Control your movement through the entire exercise, bracing your core and keeping your back flat.

MOVE 2Stability Ball Mountain Climber
Assume a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart on a stability ball. Draw your right knee toward your chest. Hold for one second, then return to the plank position. Repeat with your left knee. That’s one rep. Do 12 to 15 reps.
MOVE 3The Matrix
Grab a five-to 10-pound medicine ball (or dumbbell) and kneel on the floor with your knees hip-width apart. Keep your torso upright and hold the ball against your abs. Slowly lean back as far as possible, keeping your knees planted. Hold the reclined position for three seconds, then use your core to slowly come up to the starting position. Do 12 to 15 reps.
MOVE 4Arm Pull-Over Crunch
Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie on your back with your arms above your head. Lift your legs to a 45-degree angle. Bring your arms over your chest and lift your shoulders up while lifting your legs up perpendicular to the floor. Return to the starting position (keep your legs off the floor). That’s one rep. Do 12 to 15.
MOVE 5Knee-Cross Crunch
Stand with your shoulders in line with your hips, and extend your left arm up and your right leg to the side, toes pointed. Lower your left elbow and raise your right knee, crunching them together on a diagonal line. Return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Do 12 to 15 on each side.
MOVE 6The Sprinter
Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, legs straight, and heels hovering six to 12 inches off the floor. As you sit up, lift and bend your left elbow, and pull your right knee to your chest, as if you were sprinting. Return to the starting position, keeping your legs raised, and repeat with the opposite arm and leg. That’s one rep. Do 10 to 12.
MOVE Wall Crunch and Twist
Sit on a stability ball, facing a wall. Lie back so the middle to small of your back is resting on the ball. Place your feet hip-width apart on the wall with your knees bent 90 degrees; cross your arms over your chest. Curl up and twist through the waist to the left. Return to center and curl down so your back is parallel to the floor, then twist up to the right. That’s one rep. Do 10 to 12.
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