I think each of us has been here before:
It’s been a while since you’ve worked out, but your playlists are updated and your gym clothes are ready to rock. You eagerly drink some water, jump into your running shoes, suit your earbuds up real nice and head out the door. When you hit the sidewalk, your legs begin bouncing – urging you to move forward. As your iPod shuffles to your latest favorite song, you break into a skip, then a jog…and finally a run. You’re feeling your energy as your feet hit the pavement, you might even be singing along without realizing it – and then you notice it, a stitch in your (insert appendage here). Then it cripples you – and you’re left wondering: what is wrong with my body?!
Well the answer, my pretties – is that your workout just got cramped. As an athlete, I can tell you from a lot of personal experience that there’s nothing worse than getting into the groove of a good workout and getting sidelined by a cramp. In the back of my head, I’m thinking – hey, body! why are you acting like its your first rodeo?! But the fact of the matter is that no matter if you’re a world class athlete or about to commit to your first workout – cramps happen, but you can help!
The most common cramps for me are side cramps while running, foot cramps as a swimmer and calf cramps after a workout or a long night of dancing. So what exactly is going on and what can we do if we want to keep the workout going?
Make sure you’re warming up properly and breathing right during the exercise. If you’re planning on going for an epic run, try walking or jogging to warm up your entire body and make sure your body is hydrated enough to sustain the ass kicking you’re giving it. If you notice a cramp coming on, try to even out your breathing and avoid exhaling when your feet hit the floor, if it won’t go away give yourself a break and get into some stretches. Your body is a temple, you don’t want to destroy the foundation.
On the typical, cramps have one of two causes – dehydration or poor nutrition.
Think about things this way – your body is approximately 80% water but your muscles are closer to 75%; so when you work out, your muscles get dehydrated faster than your body. When this happens, the muscles lose elasticity, become taut and eventually – if not re-hydrated – they’ll spasm, or cramp. The other possibility is that your body is lacking in essential vitamins like iron, calcium and potassium, which is key for preventing muscle cramps.
Lucky for us, these are things we can control. At the very least, on the daily you should pop a multivitamin in the morning and get your 8 glasses of water. In this “go-go-go” world, it’s hard to avoid caffeine and soda. However, if you’re serious about treating your body well – either curb your use of diuretics like coffee, soda, alcohol and energy drinks which naturally deplete your body of water, or for every “naughty” drink have double the amount of aqua. When it comes to nutrition, an apple a day might keep the doctor away but a dose of potassium a day will keep the cramps away. Dried fruits like apricots, prunes, dates, coconuts, figs and raisins contain a whole lot of it. And for the fresh fruit lovers, try throwing more avocados, bananas, peaches and oranges in your diet.