One of the key questions to consider before we touch on recovery methods is why your shins and calves are sore. When we exercise we damage our muscles, which promotes inflammation. It’s this inflammation that allows the muscle to heal and grow stronger (as is the desired effect).
Why do muscles still hurt a few days after exercise?
What’s the difference between shin splints and stress fractures?
How to relieve muscle soreness after a hard workout
So one simple reason why they’re hurting is because you’re working them and the pain is simply a sign of them recovering.
If they’re hurting more than a reasonable amount (which is a very personal thing) then perhaps you’re putting them through more than they’re currently capable of. So try doing some easier runs for a while to build up stronger muscles so they can sustain the efforts better. This could also benefit if there’s an underlying injury starting to push its way through. Some easier runs/time off will allow this to heal as well as help you figure out the cause.
So while you consider your current/previous activity level it may also be that going from what you were doing before to what you’re doing now has led to some chronic tightness developing in your muscles. If that’s the case, try giving them some light massage to work out where the cause of the pain is.
While tightness can largely be solved by stretching and foam rolling, it’s important to be wary of any injuries present, as stretching/rolling could lead to further damage. Also, if you’re feeling pain in the lower part of your calf/into your heel, it could be, or could lead to, Achilles pain which is something you want to avoid if at all possible! But, as requested, here is a very brief overview of some of the most common recovery methods:
Massage – works by increasing blood flow to the muscles and removing tension/knots.
Self-massage: how to treat your aches and pains
Foam rolling – works in essentially the same way as massage.
Foam rollers: how to use them
How foam rolling aids muscle recovery
Compression – works by promoting blood flow to the muscles allowing healing.
Heat – will increase inflammation (and thus potentially increase the pain) but inflammation is required to heal.
Cold/ice – will reduce inflammation which leads to less pain but may lead to reduced recovery.
Protein – required to rebuild the muscle after it’s been exercised. If you’re not getting enough, then it’s possible the muscles aren’t recovering well enough.
Personally, I don’t use RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for soft tissues injuries/muscle damage. I use my own acronym, SCREACH:
Sports-science graduate Scott Findlay is also a tri coach with the Hartree JETS and has competed for Team GB at three Euro Champs and one Long Distance Worlds
More injury advice
Is ice or heat best for treating injuries?
Are you more prone to injuries if you run early in the morning?
How do you tell the difference between a soft tissue injury and a stress fracture?