Powering through a tough workout, you’re nearing the end. And then it hits: a sharp, stabbing sensation in a muscle that halts you in your steps, maybe even causing you to double over in pain. Cramps are a nightmare—but they’re common, especially during exercise. Is there anything you can do to keep them from coming on?
Cramps happen when your muscles involuntarily and forcibly contact and then don’t relax. They can occur in your arms, back, feet or legs (often referred to as a “charley horse”) during physical activity, or any time, even when you’re drifting off to sleep.
While everyone gets them, some people are more prone to cramps than others. There are many different reasons they can occur during exercise, including:
- Not properly warming up
- Continuing to exercise when muscles are fatigued
- Exercising in extreme heat or humidity
- Not properly hydrating your body during/after exercise
- Deficiencies of magnesium or potassium (sweating depletes the body of needed salts, minerals and fluids)
- Age (muscles begin to atrophy and don’t work as well once you reach your mid-40s)
As with most health concerns, prevention is key when it comes to dealing with muscle cramps. Before a workout, drink plenty of water and be sure to get enough electrolytes, sodium and potassium (eat a banana!).
Stretch before working out, between sets and when you are finished. You might also try taking a supplement such as Vitacost Calcium, Magnesium & Zinc, as magnesium helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function.
Cramps will usually stop on their own after a few minutes. If you get a cramp while exercising, stop the activity that triggered the cramp. Gently stretch and massage the cramping muscle, holding it in stretched position until the cramp stops.
NPC National Figure competitor Melissa Transou, a fitness expert, wife and mother, blogs about the unique sports and nutrition needs of women and female athletes exclusively for Vitacost.com. Learn more about Melissa in this recent RXMuscle.com spotlight article, connect with her on Facebook or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.