No matter how good an athlete you are, I expect that you have suffered from calf cramps at some stage. In this article, we provide five excellent tips to avoid the scourge of every sports person. If you are a runner, then I am sure that you will know about calf cramps. While this article is for the general fitness enthusiast, we will start in the scenario where you are a semi-competitive runner.
Imagine this scenario if you will. Let’s say that you are at the three-quarter mark of a ten-kilometre run and the road starts to incline. Ever so slightly, but enough to put that extra strain on your legs as you try to maintain contact with those leading the pack. And the temperature? Well, it’s the morning, but it’s hot and liable to get hotter before the end. And to make matters worse, you were so desperate to maintain contact with the leading group that you forgot to consume water at the last station.
So what do we have here? I can name four things – One: An increased strain on muscles. Two: Possible dehydration. Three: Loss of essentials salts, and Four: Restriction of blood flow? All in all, I think that we are describing running calf cramps, waiting to happen. It’s almost a recipe for disaster that a lot of us conveniently overlook.
I am not sure that anyone has definitive answer to the cause of cramps, but there are certainly several steps that you can take which could help save you from disaster during competition, in any sport. Of course, there is no guarantee, but they are helpful:
One: A Proper Warm Up
Ok, I know you know, but did you do it? If not, then those cramps could be coming. Seriously, if you have been involved in any sport to any level, then you will be aware of the importance of a proper warm up, which includes a routine that gently stretches your muscles to get them ready for the increased exertion, and gets your blood flowing around your body. Not only will a warm help prevent calf cramps, they will also help prevent some of the injuries that might occur when you put sudden strain on cold muscles. And whilst we are talking of warm ups, don’t forget warm downs as well.
Two: Train Hard, Run Easy
Have you heard this before? No? Well you should give it some thought, because it’s true. When you train for a sport, not only do you practice the necessary skills required to execute which ever event you are competing in, but you are also training your body for the rigour of the event. To give an exaggerated example, if you train for a sprint, and then try and run a marathon, your body won’t be ready. If you try it, I think you could be in for some serious cramps. Ouch!
Three: Water Is Sport’s Life Blood
Whenever you start to exercise, you will start to sweat (or you should). Sweat is nature’s way of cooling you down when you get hot, so, it’s a good thing. And since your body is mainly made of water, then you should have plenty, shouldn’t you? Well, considering that you lose moisture from your body when you breathe, sweating does take a lot of fluid out of your system. And your body will demand that it be replaced! Feeling dizzy and having a rapid heartbeat are signs that you are starting to dehydrate. If your mouth and lips feel dry, then you should be drinking already.
Four: Dress Appropriately
Sport is not a fashion parade. If you think it is, then you are hanging out in the wrong place! There’s nothing wrong with looking cool whilst you compete, but be practical. Don’t risk injury (or cramps) by wearing clothing that is too tight, and that restricts your body’s movement, either externally or via blood flow. Wear appropriate clothing.
Five: Maintain Proper Nutrition
When you are sweating and working hard, not only do you lose water, you also lose nutrients. There is speculation that that athletes who get calf cramps could suffer from low levels of potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. I am not suggesting that you do low level analysis of your breakfast cereal, but the message is clear. Look after your body, and your body will look after you. Eat sensibly, and eat the right foods. You can get more information on that in my book the Strategic Nutrition Guide.
Hope these tips have helped you. For more information about exercise and fitness, don’t forget to grab yourself a copy of the Lifelong Fitness Blueprint. Ciao!
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