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How to avoid muscle cramps

Categories: Exercise

Here's How To Avoid Cramps When Running And Exercising

If you have seen a runner stop dead in their tracks, taken completely by surprise by a jolt of pain, chances are that the cause is a muscle cramp. A cramp occurs when a muscle suddenly contracts violently and remains balled up in a tight knot that is very painful. The contraction is so strong that you will most likely feel sore at that point the next day. It happens to runners, swimmers, and cyclists mostly and most endurance athletes have experienced a cramp at least once during training.

There are various types of cramps:

  • Side cramp – Often called a stitch, this cramp strikes you in the side or lower abdominal area. It is mainly the result of shallow breathing instead of breathing deeply from the lower lung.
  • Stomach cramps – These are mostly caused when you drink too much fluid just before your workout, preventing you from getting a large breath. It can also be caused by insufficient sodium, potassium and calcium levels in the blood.
  • Muscle cramps – These are usually isolated along a muscle and are often caused by dehydration.

Common causes

Despite all the research done, the true cause of exercise-induced cramps is unknown. However, it has generally been noted that the more in-shape you are, the less likely you are to experience muscle cramps. There are, however, a number of theories to explain the causes of cramps. These include:

  • Poor conditioning before strenuous exercise.
  • Very high-intensity workouts for a long period of time.
  • Poor stretching practices.
  • Older age.
  • A side effect of medications such as diuretics which lower blood pressure leading to potassium deficiency.
  • Narrowed blood vessels.
  • Dehydration

How to prevent cramps

  • Exercising at a lower intensity for a shorter period of time.
  • Improving conditioning and your body's range of motion. You should always stretch before any workout.
  • Being relaxed while exercising.
  • Maintaining daily salt and fluid intake.
  • Eating or taking fluid 2-3 hours before a workout.
  • Making sure that you stay hydrated in the days before your workout.
  • Running at your Race speed the day before your race, putting you in last-leg mode on your race day.
  • Include strength work in your training to increase the efficiency of your muscles.
  • Combo workouts. Alternate the speed and strength you use in your workouts, generating explosive muscle contractions during training.


When you do experience a muscle cramp, despite your natural instinct to halt your exercise immediately, you should try and ease into it slowly. If you are running, slow down to a jog and then a walk. Take deep breaths while doing so to increase the oxygen flowing in your body and also to help you relax. Often, cramps become worse when you panic. For stomach cramps, often, passing gas or burping can get rid of it. For muscle cramps, you should stop, rest and hydrate with a drink that can possibly restore your body's electrolyte balance.