Ever suffered a mid-race muscle cramp just a few metres away from the finishing line? Most cyclists suffer a muscle cramp at some point during their time on the saddle. It’s usually the large leg muscles that go first. They can be painful and really slow you down. So let’s have a look at them.
WHAT CAUSES MUSCLE CRAMPS?
There are several theories about what causes muscle cramps, like dehydration, extreme temperatures or abnormal amounts of electrolytes such as potassium, sodium and magnesium in the body. However, the jury’s still out on these.
Research suggests that muscle cramps are caused by abnormalities in the neural mechanisms that control muscle contractions. Two contributing factors to these abnormalities are:
- muscle fatigue and
- prolonged, shortened muscle contraction.
Most often, it’s the two-jointed muscles like the hamstrings that are affected. That’s why some muscles are more affected than others. For example, swimmers most often get cramps in their calf muscles. This could be due to the pointed position of the foot – the calf muscle is contracted in a shortened position during a long-distance swimming event. The contraction, together with the onset of fatigue, can trigger a muscle cramp.
OTHER RISK FACTORS FOR CRAMPS INCLUDE:
- Age – cramps are more common among older people.
- Inexperience in certain exercises – like when you start running or take up a new sport.
- High BMI.
- Inadequate stretching before and after exercise.
- Family history of muscle cramps.
- High intensity or long-duration activity, like long distance running.
- Hill training.• Inadequate training before an event.
- Poor eating habits.
HOW TO STAMP OUT CRAMPS
- Cramp 101: Stop the activity, stretch the affected muscle, and massage the area.
HOW TO PREVENT CRAMPS:
At a basic level, you can prevent cramps from developing by exercising and stretching regularly and eating well.
- If you suffer from muscle cramps, visit your physician to rule out other causes of muscle cramping, such as underlying medical conditions.
- Train appropriately and specifically for an upcoming event.
- If you’re starting out, start off slowly and progress gradually.