Is There A Way Of Avoiding Cramps During Exercise?
Everyone who exercises will know the agony of cramp when it strikes – the painful tightening of the muscles that renders you practically immobile until it passes. Nothing stops exercise quicker than cramp but there’s no fool-proof way to avoid them. The good news is that you can aim to prevent them – all it takes is a few guidelines. The basic cause of cramp is muscle spasm, where your body has become tired and lactic acid has built up in the muscle. There are some common do’s and don’ts to help you avoid this painful result of over-exercising. Firstly, don’t aim to do too much, too fast. Don’t suddenly switch from running three miles to six in a short space of time, as your body won’t be prepared for the extra work and it will seize up.
Taking it slow and steady is the best way to prepare your body for the increasing exercise. Secondly, you need to breathe deeply to provide your muscles with plenty of exercise. Place your hand on your stomach and you’ll feel your stomach rising and falling – this means you’re breathing from your lower lung, which is necessary to avoid cramps. You also need to begin your workout slowly, so that you pump the body with plenty of oxygen as you go, rather than flood the muscles with too much activity. Lastly, you need to stay hydrated – experts recommend drinking between 16 and 20 ounces of water 45 minutes before you workout, and 2 to 4 ounces per 15 minutes of exercise. Naturally, you need to stay hydrated for the rest of the day as well, so keep water handy throughout the day.
There’s even some diet tricks you can use to avoid cramping. Some people eat immediately before going to the gym or for a swim, and don’t experience any problems. However, others need to wait hours before they can work out in order to prevent cramps. If you tend to suffer from cramps, you may want to experiment with your meal timings. Try spacing out your snacks and workout a little more, and always ensure that you’ve fully digested your food before you begin exercising. Some foods which are perfect for a pre-gym session are a piece of fruit, a bagel or a piece of toast, pasta or rice. You should avoid foods which are high in fat or dairy, as they may cause stomach cramps. Interestingly, you need to make sure you’re getting enough salt, particularly if it’s hot outside.
There are various studies on the effect of a lack of sodium and cramping, but a significant body of research does suggest that there is a relationship – don’t go overboard, but ensure that you do have enough sodium in your body before a heavy workout. If you’re going on a long run or a bike ride, carry salt tablets to replace the sodium lost through sweat. Sports drinks can also help you to maintain a balanced sodium and electrolyte level, which may help you to avoid cramping. However, if you’re exercising to lose weight, bear in mind that these drinks add calories and sugar to your diet. Lastly, keeping your muscles toned is a great way to prevent cramps, so if you go into a workout with strong muscles, you’ll be able to exercise for longer without fatiguing. You should aim to warm up and cool down effectively, to give your muscles chance to relax slowly and avoiding cramps.