To tell you the truth, my first experience with muscle cramps was when I decided to strain my calf, just the calf alone, the left leg. I strained it so much that I fell down on the floor from pain and could not get up. That was a display of true will-power! Although I have never had cramps while training but Oleg ogrudko convinced me that this topic is important since many have experienced them.
Causes of cramps
Involuntary contractions of muscles, cramps, may occur while training as well as some time after. Why does this happen?
Version one: overstraining. If a cramp occurs while training, then (in most cases) the reason is overstraining, caused by excessive load. The working muscle is too tired and its energy sources are depleted which leads to abnormal contractions. To avoid that you need to know the limits of yourcapabilities.
Version two: lack of necessary nutrients and electrolites in the cell. Mainly caused not by exercise, but by previously established chronic deficit.
Loss of electrolites is a natural process and it needs to be counterbalanced with constant adequate replacement. With the loss of electrolites the body has to take care of the balance. If the balance is broken then the lack of electrolites in the cell prevents muscle fibres from proper contractions since its ability to perform work depends heavily on sodium-potassium interaction in the cell.
Naturally, if one of the needed components is lacking, then contractions will be hampered by this fact. It may cause either pathologic contraction or pathologic relaxation. Both conditions indicate that the muscle is tired from strenuous exercise.
Knowing that you need to take care of sufficient intake of sodium and potassium with food. Proper ratio is also important.
It is also believed that lack of calcium ions may provoke cramps, because level of motor unit activation decreases. To prevent this you need to consume calcium-rich foods, especially those that are easily digestible, like dairy products, curds, which also contain a lot of B-group vitamins.
Version three: dehydration. Lack of fluids hampers with delivery of nutrients and electrolites into cells. That is, in this case, the narrow place is delivery. You need to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Version four: blood circulation issues. Bad posture, improper technique may also cause cramps.
Version five: cold. Very low temperatures and sudden changes of temperature may cause cramps too.
Version six: individual particular qualities. It is rare, but ocassionally such issues are irregular response to outside stimuli (sickness, drugs) may happen. In this case it is better to consult with your physician.
Most often, when a cramp sets on, people just scream and grasp the cramped muscle. The cramp can hold on for quite a long time if you do not take any measures. First of all, it is worth to try stretching the cramped muscle but very gently, by youself or with anyone's help. Secondly, try contracting an antagonist muscle. And finally, massage the cramped muscle along the full length of it.
After the cramp have subsided, you need to contract and relax the muscle carefully to avoid any negative effects.
Healthy and diverse food containing fresh fruit or freshly made juices.
Quality warm-up and warm-down before and after training sessions.
Important notice: if cramps are regular, with swellings, heavy feeling and groundless tiredness, and traditional measures do not work, you must seek professional help.