These involuntary contractions are more likely to be caused by signals from the nervous system that cause the muscles to develop a sustained micro contraction leading to a cramp. Two main risk factors for cramps include: increased exercise intensity and duration, and inadequate conditioning. Here are some quick tips to help you ward off those cramps:
“Research is finding that cramps are not caused by dehydration or electrolyte imbalance, especially in distance runners.”
Have a healthy, and balanced diet: What happens to your car when you let it run out of gas? It doesn’t work- the same can be said of your muscles. Be certain to include complex carbohydrates to fuel your body, and lean protein to build muscle. For those participating in long duration activities consider supplementing with sports beverages, carbohydrate and protein rich snacks, or other alternatives to provide energy to your tired muscles.
10% Rule: Many running injuries in experienced and novice runners are related to training errors. Cramps can be included in this category. While there is no consistent data showing the “best” way to increase your training program, consider increases of less than 10% per week. For those who are sedentary, or who are returning from an injury, consider increasing by less.
Strength training: Do not underestimate the value of strength training. Strength training will not only improve the efficiency of your muscle contractions, it will improve endurance, and it will increase strength in weak areas. This keeps other muscles from being overworked. Start off with simple exercises like single leg squats, planks, bridges, side planks, and push ups.
Stretching: Stretching has been shown to alleviate cramp severity and frequency. Muscle groups to target include the calves and hamstrings. To avoid side stickers stretch out your sides, but also try to employ deep breathing techniques.
Recovery: Be sure to have days to let your muscles recover from fatiguing workouts. When you stress your muscles on long runs they need time to repair, refuel, and remove waste.
Cramps are certainly pesky, annoying, and frequently painful. While these incidents are typically benign in nature they can impair performance and impede your fitness routine. Follow the above tips to help combat your cramps.
Origin and Development of Muscle Cramps Marco Alessandro Minetto, Alex Holobar, Alberto Botter, and Dario Farina