Prevent Cramping

Prevent Cramping

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    An early morning run sometimes is the only opportunity we get to hit the trails. Unfortunately, falling out of bed directly onto the trail (still half asleep), is a recipe for injury. Some preparation is necessary.

    Muscle cramps can cost any runner their PB (personal best), or even prevent them from finishing a race at all. Cramping occurs when a muscle contracts involuntarily, but most often affecting runners in the calf and thigh muscles. It can be caused by overexertion, dehydration, anatomical abnormalities, poor posture or insufficient stretching.

    Dehydration occurs when the fluid loss during exercise drastically exceeds the fluid intake, as is the case with profuse sweating. The body’s electrolyte store becomes depleted which results in a sodium and potassium shortage. Without these electrolytes the energy pumps in muscles cannot contract effectively, causing the muscle to cramp. This electrolyte imbalance needs to be restored by replenishing the body with the correct amount of fluid and salt, during and after running.

    Flexibility training plays an important role in injury prevention. Stretching increases the elasticity of muscles and improves joint range of motion. After a muscle contracted, muscle relaxation is required in order for it to prepare for the next contraction. If, however, this doesn’t happen the muscle will shorten permanently and cause frequent cramps.

    If you are still cramping in spite of hydration and stretching properly, other causes such as over training and illnesses should be investigated. Take a rest day or two, or seek medical advice if the cramping persists.

    Article by Lené van Heerden (Physiotherapist)
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    Lené van Heerden
    As a physiotherapist Lené works with people in all walks of life, taking part in almost any and every type of physical activity. More often than not they find themselves in more pain than what you can ever imagine. Working with these people energizes her, but it is also poses a great challenge. Through this she has learnt a lot about the prevention and management of injuries. Lené will be providing trail runners with valuable tips and techniques to avoid injuries and to enhance their performance on the trails! Trail Running is my ticket to switching off my phone, getting dirty and experiencing nature the way it was intended.