Experts Q&A: Shinsplints help and training for the Air Force walk test after a 2-year PT break


Q. I have been on a profile to do NO physical activity for two years due to a heart condition. I have two consecutive PT fails for having a 38″ waist; I’m 6’4″, 240lbs.

I have lost more than 30 pounds just dieting over the past 120 days but still can’t get below a 38″ waist.  Last week, my cardiologist gave me the blessing of participating in the PT test program to eliminate my “waist only” test, which I obviously can’t pass.  He wants me to do the walk test first to see how my heart reacts (since I’ve not conditioned in two years).  

The problem is, I am doing my PT test on Oct. 9, which gave me 42 days to prepare myself. I have been walking and exercising every day since he lifted my profile, but my shin splints are killing me and I don’t know what to do?  Is 42 days REALLY enough time to participate in the walk test after not being allowed to do any cardio for two years?  

I do NOT want to go back on a profile for shin splints so I have been icing them at night and I wear compression socks when walking.  Do you have any tips/tricks to eliminating/preventing shin splints?  I don’t have enough time to rest them for any amount of time, yet I’m afraid If I continue pushing through the pain, they are only going to get worse.

I do NOT want to lose my career over PT issues. I’ve had way too positive of a career for this to ruin it.

Thanks so much for your help.

– Air Force technical sergeant


From Dr. Mark Cucuzzella:

A. Thank you for reaching out to us. Congratulations on achieving weight loss and for your commitment to regaining your health.

As much as we’d love to help give specifics for individual injuries or medical conditions, for your safety we cannot do this.

It is hard if not impossible to assess injuries and the multiple causes over email. “Shin splints” could be one of several specific diagnosis and have a range of causes from training errors, biomechanical flaws, areas of weakness or mobility restriction — to name a few.

My suggestion is for you to find a really good physical therapist or athletic trainer who can communicate with your physicians. Then make a plan of recovery together.

To reduce the AC one really needs to get the insulin response low, so greatly reducing all simple carbs and grains is a good starting point if your diet is heavy in these. Move often all day too; use a standup desk and find any excuse to walk and take stairs to provide “exercise snacks.”

All the best and thanks for your service. — Mark

Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your physician.

Tell us: Do you have a fitness or nutrition question for our experts panel? Send them to us at pt365@militarytimes.com.


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Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. (Dr.) Mark Cucuzzella is a professor of family medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine. He is also designing programs to promote healthier and better running in the military with the USAF Efficient Running Project. Read his full credentials here.

Sara Davidson

Sara Davidson is an ultrarunner and contributor to PT365. She's run 7 marathons and 32 ultramarathons -- including her first 100-miler. This fall she is training for the Marine Corps Marathon using our PT365 Run Plan. Reach her at sdavidson@gannett.com .