Muscle cramps are temporary contractions of the muscles and they usually appear during physical effort. The sensation is similar to the one you have when you feel a strong, involuntary tightening of the muscle group that you can’t control any more. There are many causes which bring about cramps, but they happen most often because of insufficient warming up before training.
As such, the first thing we need to tell you is how to do a proper warm-up. This is covered in greater detail in the Lifelong Fitness Blueprint, but we will cover the basics here. Good and correct warming up has two stages: the general one (cardio), for increasing the body temperature (running, cycling, etc.) and specific stretches, during which the main joints and groups of muscles which will be involved in training are warmed up.
For cardio exercises, you only need to do the first stage. This is very simple to achieve – simply perform the same movement of the exercise itself at a much lower pace and difficulty level – that’s it. For weight training exercise, simply perform the same exercise but with only half or even less the amount of weight. Not too hard, is it?
One thing that people often forget is that you have to do these after your workout too. This has, like warming up, two stages: a dynamic one (aerobic) and a static one (stretching). It is meant to ‘calm down’ the body and to eliminate the muscular tension and the catabolic products resulted from the training. Lack of relaxation can slow down the process of recovery of the body, having often as result cramps during the next training and sometimes even during repose.
Cramps may also appear because of electrolytic misbalance, which can result from massively losing electrolytes through abundant perspiration. Recovering hydro-electrolytic balance is a priority and it can be realized through balanced and varied nourishment, rich in vegetables and fruit and completed periodically with nutritional supplements, poly-minerals and poly-vitamins.
When muscular cramps appear during training, the first thing you must do is stop the effort which produced the cramps. Massaging the affected zone is a good idea. This will intensify blood circulation in that group of muscles and will remove faster the catabolic products resulted from the training.
It is also the moment for light stretching, from which will benefit not only the affected zone, but also the antagonist muscles. This exercise is meant to put again in place the muscular fibres, in their usual alignment, contributing to the relaxation of the muscles, but also to elongating and making the muscular group affected by cramps more elastic.
Ignoring the cramps can have as a result more or less grave situations, from muscle tightening to muscular rupture. Besides the physical effects of the cramps, the sportsperson can also be affected psychologically. They will not dare intensify the training any more, being frightened of these casual contractions. They can even become hypochondriac, suspecting any common muscle pain during effort or post-effort to be a symptom of cramps.
Experience in sport and exercise will provide the best prophylaxis for these situations, the practitioner being able to make the difference between the real situations and the false alarms, contributing, this way, to increasing the effectiveness of the training. This is the case not just for professionals, but even enthusiasts like you and I. To conclude, don’t forget to check out the Lifelong Fitness Blueprint. Cheers!
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