I can’t tell you how many times I have had a student/client/patron come up to me at the end of a class or workout and ask me how to avoid cramping. Muscle cramping is super common happening anywhere between 40- 95% of folks at some point over time. There are a handful of theories as to why we cramp up from misfiring, to dehydration & low sodium intake. Let’s go over each of them.
First off muscle misfire…this isn’t necessarily user error. What it suggests is that cramping occurs when overuse causes fatigue from impulses of muscle spindles reacting to certain impulses from Golgi tendon organs. Best way to handle this is to carry a First Aid Training bag with painkillers or stop targeting those muscles with a stretch putting the muscle under tension and therefore creating a reaction from the Golgi tendon organs to relax.
Dehydration and low sodium go hand in hand…I want to say nearly 9 times out of 10 this is the cause. We talk a lot about water intake in the fitness world and how important it is to stay hydrated. What we don’t talk about so much is then necessity for sodium intake to create channels for our body to absorb what we are drinking. You can drink all the water in the world but if your sodium intake is non existent that hydration will go right through you and your body will not reap the benefits of what you drank to stay hydrated in the first place. We typically avoid sodium because for many it is loaded in their diet unbeknownst to them through products loaded with sodium to preserve them. So what you do hear is cut back on your salt intake. There’s a fine line here. Keep yourself in check with sodium but when working out, training, or competing make sure you are taking in enough to absorb what water you are drinking. How do you know? There’s some trial and error to this. If at the end of a session you find salt crystals on your body that is an indicator you are not absorbing the liquids you are drinking and need sodium. Sodium can be found in a lot of hydrating drinks but if these are too sugary for you there are salt tablets as well as things like pickle juice that have additional benefits you can take instead.
What are some other things we can do to avoid muscle cramping? Some of my favorite are massage, acupuncture, and yoga. Not only do these things help relieve muscle fatigue and cramping but each have numerous benefits of their own as well overall stress relief to mindfulness. Remember there is no across the board answer that is right for everyone. Each of us has such a unique body structure internally as well as externally and finding out what works and what doesn’t is more than half the battle in my book. Stick to it, making discoveries about yourself and your personal physiology along the way. Remember as we’ve said in previous posts, keep what works & toss what doesn’t.
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