The blessings of shin splints (or how I stumbled into Nature Therapy)

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with running. The love part: feeling mentally great after a run as well as the fitness and health benefits. The hate part: debilitating shin splints that lasted for days afterwards. If you have never experienced shin splints the best way I can describe them is to imagine someone tearing your shin bones out of your legs.

Ever the problem solver, I tried different shoes, prescription orthotics (shoe inserts), physical therapy and had queried every trainer and fitness teacher I could for a solution. And then 10 years ago- I gave up. I switched to other forms of exercise that didn’t cause shin splints. Recently, a dear friend who is an ironman/marothoner/super athlete suggested that I try trail running. We have a reservation near us so I started trail running and my shin splints decreased by about 80-90%.

But, that’s not even the best part…

I discovered the amazing power of being in nature…it feels AMAZING!

Nature is therapy

There is a Japanese practice called Shinrin-Yoku (forest bathing) which involves specific walking and relaxation practices. Shinrin-Yoku belongs to a larger category of Nature Therapy. Nature therapy is basically getting outside, away from cars and houses ideally in a wooded area. Studies on this practice show benefit for lowering blood pressure, improving sleep and lowering stress, anxiety, depression and anger and improving clarity and concentration.

Will it make a difference to you?

Only one way to find out – try this:

  1. find as natural an area as you can in your community (like a forest, the woods, a preserve or a park)
  2. before you enter the natural area, take stock of how you are feeling emotionally and physically
  3. start walking (or running) and listen to the sound of your feet on the ground, the birds in the sky and the other natural sounds around. Try to do this for at least 15-20 minutes
  4. after your walk or run, pause and check in – how do you feel now physically and mentally?