Pathetic, I know. But I was young at the time and didn’t know any better.
It was only after a few years of this shoddy “conditioning routine” did I stumble upon the importance of a proper conditioning program and the effectiveness of low tech exercises such as sprinting and running.
Ultimately, it was their stories that inspired me to lace up my sneakers and hit the streets of my own neighbourhood.
While I initially took to my new running regimen with enthusiasm, mixing up various types of road work, there was one problem: shin splints.
Within about 2 weeks of starting my new running program I began suffering from a pretty painful case of shin splints. At first I figured that my body just wasn’t conditioned to the road and that if I continued with my regimen the pain would subside.
I was wrong.
Even after a month of running 3x per week the pain was still there, if not worse.
I started to look for answers.
I bought expensive “motion control” shoes because an “expert” told me that my problem was over pronation. I did toe raises in order to strengthen the muscles underneath my shinbones. I tried running on grass or on a soft track. Nothing worked. I still had pain.
Desperate for a solution, I decided to turn to the web and scoured websites for information on shin splints, specifically its causes and remedies.
Interestingly, I came across an idea that I initially thought was completely bogus – vitamin D deficiency.
I thought to myself, “How in the hell can I be vitamin D deficient? I don’t have rickets or osteomalacia. Hell, I haven’t even broken a single bone in my life!”
But then I watched this lecture by Dr. Michael Holick (an expert on bone health) and I became more and more convinced that my shin splints were likely the a result of insufficient vitamin D levels.
Immediately I went to my local supermarket and picked up a bottle of vitamin D tablets. I figured they were at least worth a shot since the science seemed to make sense, they were safe to use, and they were reasonably inexpensive. At worst I’d be out $10 and some of my time.
So I began taking 4000IUs of vitamin D every single day.
Within about a couple weeks my shin splints went away. That was over 5 years ago. Since then I’ve been routinely running sprints and going on long conditioning runs on pavement without any problems whatsoever.
But wait, it gets even better.
After taking vitamin D on a regular basis for several weeks I began to notice that not only did my shin splints go away, but that my 5K run times were dropping consistently, week over week. Not only that, but I also noticed that I was also getting stronger in the gym. At the time nothing else had changed with my diet or training except for the addition of supplemental vitamin D.
So I dove back into the research too look for an explanation and discovered that vitamin D is not only important for bone health (and a whole host of other health related issues), but that it can actually improve your athletic performance as well, specifically your strength and endurance.
In fact, one of the best books I have come across on the topic is, Athlete’s Edge: Faster, Quicker, Stronger with Vitamin D written by Dr. Cannell, who is the founder of the Vitamin D Council.
While there are no definitive studies yet that have tackled the question of whether athletes with lower levels of vitamin D perform worse or if supplementing with vitamin D makes you a better athlete, there are some tantalizing clues to the effects of vitamin D on athletic performance that are discussed in the book.
For example, Dr. Cannell references some research that was conducted back in the 1930s and the 1950s by German and Russians scientists in which they discovered that exposure to sun-like UV radiation had a consistent and positive impact on the athletic performance of the research subjects.
While newer studies seemed to be hard to come by, Dr. Cannell does reference a study that was conducted in 1999 on the effects of vitamin D on Olympic athletes. The researchers noted the following in their study:
On the whole, it may be concluded that the continuous and repetitive exposure of the body to sub-erythemal UV radiation optimizes the performance capabilities of top-level competitive athletes, well as alleviating the occurrence of and recovery time from minor injuries and infections.
The thing to remember, however, is that vitamin D supplementation seems to only improve the athletic performance of subjects that are vitamin D deficient. Those who are not deficient will likely see no difference in their performance.
With that said, based on what I have read and the research I have conducted, most people will be deficient in vitamin D.
I’m not one to hype supplements very often (if ever), but I have to admit when something works and vitamin D has certainly been effective for me. However, I’m also not one to rely on something based purely on anecdotal evidence. Fortunately, there is some good scientific evidence on the efficacy of vitamin D on athletic performance. I highly recommend you check out the book I mentioned above, Athlete’s Edge: Faster, Quicker, Stronger with Vitamin D and read up on some of the latest research on vitamin D over at the Vitamin D Council’s website. I’ll think you’ll soon discover for yourself that there is huge upside to taking vitamin D.
Here’s to staying fit!