Don’t Let Cramps Cramp Your Style.
If there’s one thing I can do really well, it’s SWEAT. I have hyper-hydrosis, which basically means I am ALWAYS SWEATING. My hands and feet are constantly slimy. In fact, I have a paper towel under my hands right now as I’m typing this blog post, so my fingers don’t slip off my keyboard.
And when I’m doing something active, watch out. There is no glowing about it, I’m a slippy, sloppy mess. While rehabbing after ankle surgery, I remember my college trainer looking at me in awe as I dripped all over the treadmill. He said, “Man, doesn’t it feel good to sweat like that?” Huh, I never thought about it. But yeah, it does.
However, excessive sweating has its downfalls. Aside from the obvious social stigma of being, well, gross, it also can inhibit athletic activities. When you sweat too much, you get dehydrated, get out-of-whack electrolytes, and get the dreaded cramping.
Cramping sucks. A lot.
It’s not an injury everyone sympathizes with and/or understands. When you roll your ankle or blow out your knee, it’s obvious that the game has ended. There is no finishing the race after that. And no one questions it. But with cramping, it’s this weird thing where you’re just limping around, immobilized and completely out of control of your situation.
But once you have cramped, it’s TOO LATE FOR YOU. The party is OVER. You have angered your muscle(s), and if it’s bad enough, you’re not going to finish whatever it is you started.
Don’t let this happen to you! You’ve worked too hard and logged too many miles to check out early because of a pesky cramp. Unless you also suffer from excessive, constant sweating, you really only need to worry about cramping when temperatures rise. So check the forecast and plan accordingly.
Before your run, take preventative measures:
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The day before you run, fuel up with water. (Also, ease off on water in the 3-4 hours before you run, otherwise, you’ll have to hit up the port-a-potty every 2 miles. Not fun.)
- Eat smart. High-sodium foods will suck away your water, so avoid things like processed foods, anything with soy sauce, or especially-rich dishes that can leave you (and your muscles) parched.
- Lay off the booze. I know, I know. But we all know that alcohol dehydrates, so save your celebrations for after the race.
While you’re running in the heat, combat cramps:
- Drink water. Take water at every water stop, even if you’re not thirsty. It won’t cost you much time, and you can proactively replace the water you’re sweating out. If you wait until you’re thirsty, not only are you at risk for cramping, but you’re also inviting a bevy of dehydration issues.
- Get salt. I always used to snack on pretzels and animal crackers during long runs before I discovered margarita-flavored Shot Bloks. They’re loaded with extra sodium, so they’re perfect for sweaty days.
- Try pickle juice. I’ve heard rumors that pickle juice works wonders on cramps, but have never been desperate enough to try it. But hey, maybe you really like pickles?
Did you get a cramp during a run? Ease the pain, and stop them from happening again later:
- Eat bananas. Bananas are full of potassium, which means they are magical cramp healers. They’re also pretty easy on the stomach after a long run, so go ape and avoid the awkward cramp-in-the-middle-of-a-post-race-dinner-where-you-stand-up-so-fast-that-you-knock-over-the-table situation.
- Load up on the salt. Remember all those salty foods you were avoiding before the race? Now is the time to eat them. Enjoy! You’ve earned it.
- Get a massage. If you have a particularly bad cramp, it’s going to hurt later because your muscle will be balled up in a knot of awful. Get someone who knows what they’re doing to knead it out.
As the heat rises, keep these things in mind for a safe and strong summer of running. — Aidz