Personal Fitness : How to Stop Charlie Horses & Cramps While Stretching
How to Prevent Muscle Cramps During Exercise
Muscle cramps can happen suddenly, causing immense pain and interrupting your flow while you're exercising. Dehydration, depletion of carbohydrate stores, and tightness may all have something to do with cramps, but the primary cause of muscle cramps is usually muscle fatigue. When muscles are overworked, they contract without releasing, causing that pain that stops you in your tracks. Whenever you exercise, make sure you're adequately hydrated and providing sufficient carbohydrate fuel for your muscles. To prevent muscle cramps, take a close look at your exercise routine and revamp it, including exercises that increase your flexibility, and making sure your muscles aren't overworked.
Fine-Tuning Your Workout
Warm up before you work out.Muscles that aren't sufficiently warmed up before you start working out may have the tendency to cramp more. Particularly if you're about to engage in strenuous or endurance-based exercise, adequate warm-up is crucial to preventing muscle cramps.
- The type of warm up you do depends on your overall workout. For example, if you're going for a run, walking for five to 10 minutes before your run is a good warm-up.
- Jumping jacks or jogging in place are good warm-ups for other aerobic activity.
- For strength training, do five minutes of arm and leg circles, shallow squats, and knee bends, kicking your foot forward and back. Follow this with some slow sit-ups, side bends, or push-ups.
Stretch the muscles you plan to exercise.If you're doing light, casual exercise, additional stretching typically isn't necessary following a warm up; however, before engaging in strength training or vigorous activity, do active stretching to engage the active muscle groups.It is important to note that stretches should be dynamic (moving through a range of motion) and not static (lengthening the muscle and holding while you are at rest, which should be done after you finish working out).
- For example, if you're going for a run, you want to stretch your leg muscles, particularly your hamstrings, calves, and quads. Try hip circles, walking lunges, butt kicks, and legs swings.
- On the other hand, for upper body strength training, you want to stretch your shoulders, neck, chest and back. Try big arm circles, arm swings, and chest openers.
Evaluate your workout environment.Where you work out is just as important as what you do during your exercise routine when it comes to preventing muscle cramps. Your muscles are more likely to cramp if you are exercising in extreme conditions.
- Your environment is particularly important if you're exercising outside. Significant changes in temperature or humidity can affect how your muscles perform.
- If it's significantly hotter or colder than it normally is when you exercise, shorten or adapt your routine accordingly to account for the fact that your muscles will not be working to their full potential.
- Generally, the hotter it is, the more you'll sweat. Dehydration and depletion of electrolytes in this environment can overwork your muscles and lead to cramps.
- Even if you're in peek physical condition, running outside in a hot and humid environment can lead to cramps.
Check your form and technique.If you consistently have the same muscles cramp up, your form may be to blame. Exercises done incorrectly can cause muscle cramps. To check your technique, work out in front of a mirror or call on a personal trainer.
- Particularly if you're a runner, you may be getting cramps because of the position of your foot as you're running. This typically isn't something you'll notice on your own, especially if it has become habit.
- A certified personal trainer can observe your exercises and give you advice on how to tweak your technique. Even a relatively minor "cheat" in form can have significant consequences.
- You may not be able to afford to work out with a trainer every day, but if cramps are a continuous problem and nothing else you've done seems to eliminate them, hire a trainer for a single session to diagnose your problem and offer solutions.
Work on your posture and flexibility.Joint misalignment due to tightness may also be the cause of your cramping. This is often a result of poor posture or injuries not properly healed. Regular stretching can help. Consider taking a yoga class a few times a week to help increase your flexibility and posture.
- One quick trick to improve your posture is to imagine there is a string attached to the top of your head. Imagine this string is gently tugging you upward. This should cause you to lift your head and bellybutton and pull your shoulders back.
- As we get older our connective tissues are less elastic. People use tools such as foam rollers to “iron out” those tight spots.
- Massage therapy may also help with recurring muscle cramps.
Shorten the duration of your workout.More often than not, muscle cramps are caused by muscle fatigue. Your muscles may become fatigued if they're overworked, or if you're pushing yourself too hard during your workouts.
- This is an easy fix if you notice that you always cramp up at roughly the same point in your workout.
- For example, if you try to go on 45-minute runs, but usually get a cramp around the 30-minute mark, you probably should shorten your runs to 30 minutes for a while.
- You also may be able to prevent muscle cramps during exercise by decreasing the intensity of your workout routine.
- Once you make the adjustment, stick to the shorter or less intense routine for a few weeks, then gradually build up to your goal.
Consuming Sufficient Carbohydrates
Use caution if you are on a low-carb diet.There are many diets out there that like to paint carbs as the enemy; however, if you're engaging in strenuous exercise on a regular basis, your muscles need carbs to recover.
- Your body stores carbs for your muscles to use as fuel. Casual exercise, such as brief walks, typically don't deplete these stores significantly.
- However, intense strength training or long-distance running or biking will burn through your carbohydrate stores, particularly if you're on a low-carb diet.
- Speak with a doctor or a nutritionist if you're on a low-carb diet and want to begin intense training or endurance activities. They can help you tweak your diet to ensure you're consuming the carbs you need.
Have a carbohydrate snack before exercising.While you typically shouldn't exercise less than two hours after eating a larger meal, a small snack rich in carbohydrates a half-hour or so before you start your workout provides sufficient fuel for your muscles.
- A banana is a good snack to have before exercising. Bananas not only have a sufficient amount of carbohydrates, they also are high in potassium. Potassium reduces inflammation and can help prevent muscle cramps during exercise.
- Yogurt or dried fruit also provides the nutrition you need in a pre-workout snack.
- A number of companies market energy or nutrition bars for pre-workout snacks. If you decide to go this route, check the ingredient list carefully and make sure the bar has what you need. Avoid energy bars that have a lot of added sugar or fat, which you don't need.
Ingest carbs during lengthy or intense exercise.Particularly if you're engaging in an endurance sport such as marathon running or long-distance biking, you should ingest carbs between the 60- and 90-minute mark of your race or training session.
- Generally your body will wipe out its carbohydrate stores within an hour of intense or strenuous exercise. Failure to replenish these stores can result in muscle cramps.
- To prevent muscle cramps, have a banana or a carb-rich energy bar during your exercise. If solid food is difficult for you to consume in the midst of your workout, bring along a carb-rich shake or sports drink that you can have.
Maintaining Proper Hydration
Start your workout well-hydrated.If you're already dehydrated when you begin your workout, it won't really matter how much water you drink while you're exercising. Drink between 17 and 20 ounces (500 and 600 ml) of water two to three hours before your workout starts.
- You also should follow up with another 7 to 10 ounces (200 to 300 ml) of water within 10 to 20 minutes before you start exercising.
- Plain water typically is best for pre-exercise hydration. You may want to use energy drinks if you are about to engage in endurance sports such as marathon running or long-distance biking.
- For endurance sports, you want to retain water, which means you need the sodium that sports drinks provide.
Measure your fluid loss.To get an idea of how much fluid your body loses during your workout, weigh yourself before you begin exercising and again when your workout is over. The difference between those two numbers is the amount of fluid you've lost.
- Losing too much fluid during your workout may be a reason your muscles are cramping. Keep your fluid loss in check by drinking water or sports drinks while you're exercising.
- If you drink sports drinks, remember to water them down, as they are often packed with sugar. Experts say 6 parts water to one part sports drink, but even half and half is better than the full concentrate.
- Generally, you shouldn't lose more than 2 percent of your body weight in fluid while exercising. If the number is too high, you may need to adjust the duration or intensity of your workout.
- Another way to decrease fluid loss is to exercise in a different location. If you're exercising outside, you'll sweat more during the hottest months than you will when it's cooler. If you're sweating too much, shorten your workout during hot conditions or move your workout inside.
Rely on your thirst during workouts.The easiest way to make sure you're drinking enough fluid is to bring water or a sports drink with you when you exercise. When you feel thirsty, go ahead and gulp some water. While you might think gulping water would cause cramps, it may actually be preferable — gulps of fluid may leave the stomach more rapidly than water that is sipped.
- Water bottles for exercise usually hold between 16 and 34 oz (500 ml to 1 liter).
- Ideally, you should drink enough to quench your thirst and then stop. Give your body time to absorb the water before you drink again.
- Serious athletes may need to drink around 50 oz (1.5 liters) of water for every hour of exercise.
I have PE every day. The exercises are mandatory, but so always end up with horrible cramps. How can I fix this?
Video: Massage for Muscle Spasms & Cramps
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