Tired of Getting Cramps While Running? – Here’s a Few Strategies That Can Help
Getting cramps while running is common among runners. Nearly every runner has had them at some point in time. In many cases, it’s during a long run or on a day where the heat is excessive. Other times, they can be unpredictable and seemingly come out of nowhere. In any case, it’s never fun to get cramps while running. They’re painful, irritating, and can certainly affect your running results. Therefore, learning strategies for preventing cramps is important. It’s said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This certainly applies to runners’ cramps.
Which Type of Running Cramps Do You Have?
Before we can talk about preventing cramps, it’s important to know which type of cramps you’re having. Basically, there are two types of cramps that occur while running. The first type develops from fatigue and overuse. Your calves are the most common site for overuse cramps while running. These tend to be sudden in onset, persistent, and often asymmetrical. These are the types of cramps many runners have at the end of an endurance race, especially if they’re not well-trained.
The second type of cramps you can get while running are due to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Specifically, the loss of sodium and chloride (salt) causes these types of cramps. Failing to keep pace with fluid replacement, especially with excessive sweating, is a common trigger. Also, electrolyte cramps tend to hit larger muscle groups like the quads and hamstrings while being more intermittent in nature. Regardless, they can be just as frustrating as overuse cramps.
Preventing Cramps from Overuse and Fatigue
In considering overuse cramps, there are a few risk factors worth noting. These cramps become more common with age, and of course, they tend to develop from excessive use. In addition, a history of cramping and poor conditioning are known risks as well. In preventing cramps from overuse, it’s therefore important to properly condition yourself before a race. This means ensuring you’ve trained well for both the distance and the conditions. Strengthening key muscles groups can also reduce fatigue and the risk of overuse cramps.
Preventing Cramps for Electrolyte Imbalance
If you’re a person who sweats a great deal, you’re at risk for cramps due to electrolyte imbalance. The same applies to runners who fail to keep up with their fluid and salt loss during a run. Preventing cramps in this situation involves making sure you drink adequate fluids and electrolytes. Likewise, it also means choosing the right types of fluids to drink. Diluted sports drinks with sodium and chloride are actually the best because your body absorbs these the fastest. Runners should avoid over hydration because this can deplete electrolyte concentrations in the body. A little fluid replacement before, during, and after a race can significantly help you avoid cramps while running.
Focus on Your Running, Not Your Cramps
The strategies above can definitely reduce the frequency with which you get cramps while running. Should they occur, immediate relief can usually be obtained from passive stretching and gentle massage. Likewise, ice packs may also help, especially for overuse cramps. But preventing cramps in the first place is a better approach. This not only makes your everyday running more enjoyable, but it will improve your race performance as well. And that’s the overall goal for all of us.
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