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Walking for Fun & Fitness
By: Bonnie Stein, M.Ed., C.P.T.S.
SHINS THAT WIN
You know that you need to exercise regularly for your diabetes. You’ve heard that exercise walking is the easiest program to start. You want to get into shape, get fit, get rid of stress and maybe some lose some extra pounds in the process. In your mind you’re ready to get out and walk regularly. But physically, those shins just aren’t cooperating. If any part of your lower leg (from the front of your ankle to below your knee) is screaming out in pain, you’re a candidate for the tips below.
Don’t give up so easily. The tips below will help strengthen your weak and wimpy shins and make them SHINS THAT WIN. Or at least shins that don’t hurt. Before you complain about the front of your legs hurting, follow the prescription below.
1. Stretch your calves (back of your lower leg) everyday. Tight calf muscles cause the anterior leg muscles to work harder to elevate the foot. According to Dr. Perry Julien, a sports podiatrist in Atlanta who was part of the medical team for the Olympic Racewalks and Marathons, tight calf muscles are often the cause of shin pain. Dr. Julien says that the two best things walkers can do to prevent foot injuries and shin discomfort are things that don’t cost as much as a visit to the doctor. Stretch your calf muscles often and buy new shoes before yours wear out. Bob Anderson’s book Stretching is a great resource. Or go to www.AceWalker.com and click on Stretches.
2. Rock in a Sock - Put a rock in the toe of your sock (use a long sock.) Dangle the sock (with the rock) over your toes; i.e. don’t put the sock all the way on your foot, but rather about half way on. Use the dangling part of the sock as a weight and flex and relax the foot 10 times. Do both feet for three sets.
3. Walk on your heels everyday to strengthen your shin muscles. In my advanced racewalking classes, the students walk around the track on their heels for 30-60 second intervals. Try it in your house for 10-20 seconds at a time. Repeat during the day five or ten times.
4. Write the alphabet with your toes. You can do it in bed before you go to sleep or under your desk at work. If you’re really resourceful, get in a few letters in your car at each red light. See if you can finish the whole alphabet by the time you arrive home. Both feet, of course.
5. Flexing and pointing the foot at the ankle joint will help strengthen the shin muscle. Place a hand weight or Velcro weight (one pound to start) on your bare foot. Sit where you can dangle your legs from a stool or table. Slowly flex your foot up and then point your toes down. Think of your ankle as a hinge. Do it 10 times with each foot and repeat three times.
6. Peas, please! Icing reduces inflammation while you’re continuing to stretch your calves and strengthen your shins. Use a bag of frozen peas (only 20 minutes at a time) every time you finish a workout. I prefer frozen peas, but yes . . . you can use corn in a pinch. Brussels Sprouts are out of the question.
7. Are you warming up for at least 8-10 minutes with slow walking before you get into a regular pace? Starting out too fast can make your shins beg for mercy.
8. After warming up for 8-10 minutes stop by a tree, pole, or car and do calf stretches before you continue your walk. Just remember not to stretch cold muscles.
9. Make circles with each foot. Go clockwise, then counterclockwise. The ankle joint is your point of rotation.
10.If you’ve tried the nine items above and still have shin pain, see a sports podiatrist. Excessive pronation (rolling in of the foot) is another cause of shin pain. It can be controlled with an orthotic, a device which controls pronation and is molded specifically for your foot by a podiatrist. If pronation is your problem, orthotics could be your answer. Since orthotics are expensive try the other nine items first. With the exception of new shoes, the other suggestions are free. Provided you’re not eating the peas.
Bonnie Stein M.Ed. is a racewalking instructor and Certified Personal Training Specialist based in Redington Shores, Florida. Visit www.AceWalker.com
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Defeat Diabetes Foundation
150 153rd Ave, Suite 300
Madeira Beach, FL 33708
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