You’re jogging or sprinting right along when suddenly it hits you—a pain, a pain that shatters your focus, busts your concentration and shouts for your attention with its tightening grip. Cramps! A runner's worst nemesis and can effect even the best runners.
But there are ways to avoid and even beat cramps in some cases. Read on!
What Causes Running Cramps?
Cramps occur usually because of at least one or a combination of these four things:
Cramps can sometimes be an indication by your body that you have a problem that needs to be corrected. And in this case, you aren’t taking in enough oxygen.
There are three separate areas on the body where cramps can occur. Each of these three are caused by different things. Don’t get confused! Continue reading...
Listed below are the three types of running cramps and why they most likely occur.
Side Cramp (Stitch)
Side cramps or stitches hits you in your side. The primary cause of this type of cramp is due to improper breathing, or more simply shallow breathing.
To deal with side cramps, take in deeper breaths. You need to breath from the bottom of your lungs. When you breathe this way, your stomach should rise and fall. Slow down if you have to, to acquire correct breathing.
Side cramps can also occur from an uneven balance of calcium, sodium and potassium
Side cramps can also be a result from having just eaten a large meal, such as a big breakfast, or how much you’ve had to drink. Your stomach is full and therefore it does not allow for your lungs to expand as much as they should. Should you not eat anything before running? No! But you should wait about 45 minutes up to 2 hours after eating to begin your run after most meals.
This can come as a result of incorrect breathing.
You need to take in deeper breaths and again, remember to breathe in from the bottom of your lungs so that your stomach rises and falls.
In addition to the side cramp runners get, stomach cramps can occur because of a stomach that is too full and does not allow the lungs to fully expand. Again, run about 45 minutes up to 2 hours after eating.
If you’re getting a leg cramp it usually means that you are dehydrated.
You need to begin taking in more fluids as soon as possible.
There are 3 things to take into account during your pre run meal
In this case, there isn’t a one size fits all formula. This is where things get tricky and you have to start experimenting.
You typically want to eat at least 1-2 hours before your run. You should never feel starved or stuffed beyond capacity.
But what if I don’t have time to eat before I run?
This is a common problem many of us early morning runners face. We wake up and the first thing we do is go for a run. Waiting 1-2 hours just can’t fit into our schedules.
If this is the case, than at least make sure you are hydrated. You’re going to be dehydrated because you’ve been asleep and haven’t consumed any water. If you can, get a sports drink. Not only are they packed with electrolytes, but sports drinks also have some carbs in them that your body can use as fuel. Consume fluids if you run for more than 30 minutes.
If you plan on running more than a mile, then it’s recommended that you toughen up and wake up an hour earlier. Yes it sucks, but so does running on fumes and burning out in the middle of your run.
Your pre run meal should consist of a lot of carbohydrates, because carbs are used as fuel for the body. Avoid protein, fat and fiber as these things, especially the fiber, can make you feel bloated.
You want to consume between 300-500 carbs.
Some runners eat smaller meals before their runs and wait until after their runs to eat their main meals.
Some foods may not agree with you. For example one fruit may disagree with you while another might work well. So it may not be what time you eat. It could be WHAT you eat.
Make sure you drink sufficient amounts of fluids before and during your runs to avoid runners’ cramps. You need to consume about 16 to 20 ounces of water or sports drink loaded with electrolytes about 45 minutes before your run.
We realize that some of these suggestions are very generalized. The goal is to find what works best FOR YOU. When you find the right combination of breathing, proper fluid intake and foods that work with you, then you can get the most out of your runs.