Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
Throughout most of high school and college, I was invincible. The only real injuries I ever sustained were two minor overuse injuries – bursitis in my hip my senior year of high school and tendinitis in my left knee my senior year of college. Both injuries kept me out for roughly a month, and both were remedied the same way: I finally decided I was tired of waiting for them to get better, so I simply started running again. At first I ran through the pain, but eventually the discomfort subsided. Once that happened, and I was able to run completely unhindered, I didn’t give my former ailments a second thought. They were in the past. I was healed. I was free.
But the injury I sustained two years ago, the high-ankle sprain I suffered after landing wrong in a steeplechase water pit, that injury was different. That injury stayed with me for weeks and months and years after I began running again. That injury left me physically and mentally weak. It left me highly susceptible to re-injury. It made me fear the water pit, something that I had never experienced, not even as a 16-year-old trying it for the first time. It made me timid and distracted when running over uneven surfaces, which ultimately resulted in me avoiding trails on my training runs and cross country races taking place on the grass.
In one fell swoop, that injury took away the single most important aspect of my running: my confidence. The confidence I had thrived on for years, the confidence that had propelled me to achieve things beyond my wildest dreams, was shattered.
ShinTekk is an exercise tool that allows athletes to train against or rehabilitate sports-related lower leg injuries such as shin splits and ankle sprains. It improves biomechanical balance by utilizing the physical therapy technique of resisted dorsiflexsion exercises to strengthen the muscles and ligaments of the shin area and ankle. The exercise one performs is remarkably simple yet very effective: you step on the device, slide your foot under the U-bar at the front, press your heel down, and then pivot your foot upward at the ankle to apply tension to the Resistance Bungees. As your lower leg strength increases, you can swap in a stronger bungee or change up your workout to continue to build your muscles.
Incorporating ShinTekk into my strength training has been incredibly easy. Given the nature of the device, namely its portability and the fact that it is a standalone product, I can use it virtually anywhere. This means that when I am on the couch watching Game of Thrones or at my computer writing a blog post, I can also be strengthening my ankles and lower legs. The minimal amount of hassle and effort needed to use ShinTekk is absolutely one of its best qualities. I don’t have to find a sturdy table, crouch down, lift it up, and slip an elastic band around it. I don’t have to wonder if the motions I’m making are correct and if I’m doing the exercises right. I just have to put on my shoes, hook in a band, and get to work.
In the few months that I have been using ShinTekk, I have already seen huge improvements in my ankle strength. My successful completion of two competitive cross country races – the USATF New England Cross Country Championships and the USATF Club Cross Country Championships – is evidence of that. Going into those races, it was absolutely crucial for me to know that my ankle would be solid, regardless of the terrain I encountered. Every ounce of energy that I didn’t spend worrying about my ankle was energy I spent staying relaxed, keeping contact with the leaders, and generally focusing on the race.
While the peace of mind ShinTekk has offered me in regards to successfully navigating a cross country course is hugely beneficial, the confidence it has restored in my ability to successfully traverse a water pit simply can’t be put into words. A year and a half ago, I thought I would never steeple again. Eight months ago it took me three weeks to build up the courage to do a single water jump at practice. And even after making that giant mental and physical leap, I still had to drop out of a race later in the season in-part because my ankle was unstable.
Now, four months away from my next steeple, I feel incredibly confident that when the time comes, I will be ready. Why? Because I have ShinTekk to help make my ankle strong enough to withstand the rigors of 7 water jumps, and to give me the confidence to attack the water barrier without fear or hesitation.
For more information on ShinTekk and how you can incorporate it into your own strength training, check out their website here.