Just about everyone who has ventured into the exercise arena has experienced either a cramp or a stitch at some time. When the weather is cooler, the thought of having a cramp can make you want to put off exercising altogether.
Muscle cramps happen for a reason and you can minimise the potential of your muscles cramping up and decreasing the benefits of your workout.
Firstly, you need to know that cramps are due to an involuntary muscle contraction. For a long time they have been associated with dehydration, heavy salt losses, or extremes of temperature. Most recent evidence suggests the most likely cause is altered neuromuscular function due to extreme fatigue in the exercised muscle.
Can I reduce my risk of cramp? YES is the simple answer and this is how:
- Wear comfortable, unrestrictive clothing and footwear.
- While there remains little strong evidence that dehydration is associated with cramps, it’s still important that athletes practice good hydration practices both before and during exercise to optimise training and competition performance.
- Be cautious when changing speed or intensity especially during the later stages of exercise. Fatigued muscles take longer to adapt to increased workloads.
- Increase strength and fitness. Stronger, fitter muscles are more resilient to fatigue and therefore cramp.
- Allow adequate recovery and rest for muscles after hard training sessions.
Reference: AIS Sports Nutrition. © Australian Sports Commission