I am fortunate in that I haven’t had problems with cramping (probably because I don’t work hard enough for cramps), but someone asked me recently about tips to avoid cramping. I didn’t have a good answer, but of course once it was on my mind I have noticed different articles and tips about cramping.
There are the standard answers: get electrolytes, hydrate better, and eat more carbs. But, it turns out there are some additional, slightly odd ways, as well as things you might not expect. This is non-exhaustive to be sure, but a few tidbits that I hope you will find useful if you experience cramping:
- Drink pickle juice. (I didn’t make it up, but I’m also not signing up for this one).
- Build strength! It turns out that cramping in one area may be a sign that you lack strength in another area. Leg cramps while cycling could indicate that you need to build core strength. I guess we are really connected! But this certainly wouldn’t have been my first go to answer.
- Stretch well and often. Stretching has become quite controversial. Some say you must stretch after every workout, some say it’s better not to do after a workout, but to do later on. I’m sure some say to never stretch. I have heard to only use dynamic stretches, but plenty of people say that the long holds are what’s really important. Sigh. From my personal experience, I think stretching can help. Some of my muscles seem to do better with dynamic movement, others with longer holds. I have really been digging mobility routines with Gymnastics Bodies as I discussed here, and the Myrtle routine has been a huge saver – I do it before every run and haven’t gotten really sore hip flexors since (which I used to be very prone to-to the extent of not being able to run at all). That’s my body though, I think we all have different weak spots, and will do better with different routines.
Here is an interesting article positing that muscle cramps are not caused by dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. It appears cramps are still not thoroughly, scientifically, understood…but I’m sure all of the above have helped some people, whether placebo or not the result is the same.