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Running Cramps

What Is Running Cramps And The 4 Tips The Doc Won't Tell You.


Running CrampsRunning cramps, cramps while running, is a common and very disturbing problem for runners on practically any level. It seems, though, that some runners are more bothered than others and it also seems that this is a problem that the elite runners have less so as compared to the 1-5 times a week runner. More on that particular point below.

In this little piece, you can read about...

  • the most probable reasons for muscle cramps
  • what is usually done about it
  • and some quite good tips to prevent/get rid of the problem. The four step plan that you probably don't have your doctor tell you.

First, what is muscle cramps ?

Well, muscle cramps is simply a spasmodic and non-volentary contraction of the muscles. If you read through a number of articles on this topic, one of the most common explanations for the muscle cramps is type dehydration / electrolyte imbalance.

However, there is absolutely no hard "evidence" for this theory - it is mainly based on observations and the theoretical framework.

What can you do to avoid/get rid of muscle cramps ?

These 4 steps below and over 90 % of runners usually get rid of the problem.

Here we go...

Change Your Running Shoes. Even the Brand If You Can.

Running shoes that does not fit your particular foot/the way you place your foot puts an enormous extra stress on all tendon and muscle groups all the way up to the hip.

This should not be underestimated - and if you want to get rid of the cramps change the brand you are running in. Ideally go to a running specialist store and have them film your toe off/landing on the treadmill.

If you haven't seen the difference in stress different shoes gives you in the landing you're in for a surprise when you see those tapes :)

Eccentric Stretches - 3 Times A Week. "Teach" Yourself To Avoid the Running Cramps.

Interestingly, running cramps does not occur in the muscles that goes through lengthening frequently during prolonged exercise. But only the quads, calf's, hips etc. that are almost constantly in a contracted state. One of the reasons to this may be that this lengthening gives regular activation of protective reflexes, that prevents the muscle of going into spasm...

The importance for you ?

If you struggle with cramps : "teach" your "contracting" muscles/tendons to deal with the stretching state - gain elasticity through eccentric work. A google search will give you videos where you can see how this is done.

Eccentric work means you are putting force on the muscle while it as the same time is being lengthened.

For example, for the quads (if you struggle with running cramps in the quads) instead of doing squats (that makes them contract) - you want to do the opposite : you find a machine where you can sit with the legs straight at the knees. Then force is placed on the lower leg and you try and hold back as the lower leg is moved downwards. Result is you have to work hard with your quads to resist this movement - you are putting force on the lengthening direction of the tendon/muscle.

This kind of work 3 times weekly for a period in addition to 2-3 minutes before exercise can make wonders for cramping muscles. And is one of the "secrets" of many top class marathoners to avoid muscle cramps 30+/20 miles into a marathon.

Warm Baths 10 Minutes After All Running

One problem with muscles going into cramps is an increased tension in the muscles.

How to deal with this quite easily ?

Go for hot baths. 10 minutes really hot, within 1 hour of exercise. This decreases muscular tension and helps the muscle go back to recovery phase again.

Magnesium Supplement - The Only "Cramps When Running" Supplement

Though the "electrolyte"/dehydration theory has not been proved quite a few runners have seen incredible improvement of running cramp problems just by using magnesium supplement about 3 times weekly - mornings after hard runs. The reason for this is unclear but it is certainly something worth trying out.

If nothing of this works out, you have one main option left :

Get cross friction massage on the cramping leg/part for 2 weeks, 2-3 times weekly while on a decreased running mileage.

All the best with dealing with running cramps...

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