Calf grabbing, face contorted, as time stops and seconds feel like hours, while those around you try to figure out what’s causing you such excruciating pain, you finally stammer “cccrrrammmp”.
For roughly 3 years of my running life, I found myself battling calf cramps constantly. Waking from a dead sleep in agony, finishing a marathon then finding myself unable to walk to the hotel, tapping my toe to a great song and then yelping clearly off key.
Notice I said that only happened for 3 of the over 13 years I’ve been hitting the pavement. So let’s talk about what works for preventing running muscle cramps!
Preventing Muscle Cramps
Following are the tips that have worked for me and the athletes I coach!
This tends to be the first thing that most doctors will point to because it’s the easiest thing to resolve. Ensuring that you are taking in enough fluids to stay hydrated is key to keeping muscle supple.
Read more about keys to running hydration >>
I learned that I was actually sweating and drinking so much water that I was washing electrolytes from my body! I needed to start adding them back in, which I’ve talked about in depth on Electrolytes 101.
“As you get tired, your muscle’s reflex control becomes dysfunctional. Instead of contracting and relaxing like they’re supposed to, they keep firing. Basically, your muscles become “twitchy” and can’t stop contracting.” It’s no surprise that cramps happen towards the end of a race or after you’ve stopped that intense workout due to muscle fatigue. Using compression socks or tights seems to help keep the blood/oxygen flowing to the area to prevent cramps.
Read all about compression gear >>
If you have week feet or ankles that are forcing your calves to take on a larger workload, then you’re pushing towards that overuse result even faster. Ensure you have shoes that fit you correctly and that you’re not running on your toes, while that might work for sprinters it leads to pain for distance runners.
Read more on good running form and strong ankles >>
This goes back to improving muscle flow and releasing tension from an overworked muscle. While you’re having a cramp, attempting to massage the area is painful, but helpful in getting it to subside. Consistent massages during training can help to ward off lots of injuries by keeping muscles aligned and working to their maximum ability.
Beyond electrolytes one of the minerals most useful in preventing muscle cramps is magnesium. See below for my new favorite way to keep magnesium levels up since the body does not produce it!!
Side cramps are a whole different issue and largely caused by needing to breathe better!
Read about the best breathing for runners >>
Post Run Slushie
Because it’s summer time, I wanted to share with you a great post run option to replenish your magnesium and prevent those muscle cramps! It’s a super easy, zero calorie, treat to cool down!
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 cups ice
- 1 scoop electrolyte powder which has magnesium – or I like to make a serving of CALM at night which is 2 scoops and only drink half. That leaves the rest for my slushie the next day, just eliminate the water.
Directions: Mmmm….blend for a few seconds, slurp for longer to prevent brain freeze.
Have you ever had issues with muscle cramps?
How do you stay on top of electrolytes?
Other ways to connect with Amanda about Running!!