Cramps are the worst!
So how do we beat them?
Well, it depends on why you are getting them. There can be a number of reasons. These are the big ones:
- Electolyte imbalance
- Over exertion
- Lack of flexibility/ joint mobility
First let’s diagnose the problem here.
For electrolyte imbalance, this is likely only the case if you are sweating a lot. If you are losing a lot of electrolytes via sweat, then yeah, maybe electrolytes are your issue. People often blame it on potassium, however, this is rarely the case. An electrolyte drink containing sodium, potassium, magnesium, and even calcium will be useful in preventing electrolyte imbalance during exercise. In fact, some cyclists carry TUMS with them for the calcium because calcium is actually required for a muscle to release from a contraction (cramp).
If your problem is over exertion (which is usually my problem), then it will be because you have only been doing a moderate amount of training, and are now trying to force your muscles into a heavy work load. I’ll give you an example. I entered a MTB race (12 Hours of Temecula) on a 3 man team when I had barely gotten back on the bike. On my 3rd lap going at race pace, my muscles were trying to tell me that I was working them too hard. The cramps started coming on, and I almost didn’t make it up “Cardiac Climb.” The cramps ALMOST debilitated me! I actually even saw a few guys sitting in the dirt in excruciating pain because of the cramps. So think about that when you do a ride you aren’t ready for. Your muscles will tell you if you are out of your league.
Last of all, if you have a lack of flexibility then you may have a problem with cramps. A cramp is a muscle contraction that is unable to relax. Stretching those muscles out will lengthen them prevent them from painful unwanted contractions.