“I had an amazing cramp last night!” said no-one ever. Whether it interrupted your best performance of the season or a wonderful, well-deserved night of… sleep. Cramps create inner-conflict we can’t begin to explain without ten profanities and bulging, tearing eyes. Let’s dry up those tears and ensure soap-washed mouths are no longer necessary.
What is a cramp? An unexpected and painful contraction due to fluid imbalances in the body or going from the couch to a 5km sprint in 5 min.
Some conversations you’ve probably had when cramping-up:
- “You’re doing this now? On a date?! Seriously…”
- “Why in the world are you awake at 2am when I’m sleeping?”
- “Peeved someone off that has a voodoo doll again… Damnit!”
- “I surrender!”
- “Just thought I’d try a new pose. My body clearly hates me.”
Jokes aside. What factors increase the likelihood of you cramping up?
- Temperature (& direct sunlight) – hot environments cause greater fluid and electrolyte loss; cold environments mean limited range of motion (ROM) without adequate preparations for movement (think of the amount you sweat on a blazing day or physical responses of “ice-bucket challenge” participants)
- Humidity – usually more humid environments have higher incidence as the body is less able to regulate its temperature, fluid loss, and chemical balance (gone to the beach lately? This is when you feel like there’s a blanket of sweat around you and you keep sweating)
- Physical stress – this could result from excessive physical exertion or sedentary-ism
- Mental stress – if your mind is wound-up, chances are your body is too (this could lead to “sleeping cramps” or as I refer to… sleep stealers)
- Tetanic bacteria – uncommon but just don’t go around falling on rusty nails and you should be fine (if you do, head to the hospital and have it checked out. A tetanus injection and there will be no “lock-jaw” cramping)
Cramping is a definite form of inhibition, so without further adieu, we bring you “Cramping Solutions” through our MoveMax programmes. The major focus areas here are to teach, train and sustain functional mobility. This means that we want to see you, as humans, MOVE to your MAXimum.
1. Increase your micro-nutrient intake
- Sodium – add some extra salt to your foods (I required more salt in my foods when I began increasing my activity levels; warning: excess sodium intake can cause high blood pressure)
- Potassium – include bananas, spinach & broccoli into your diet 2-3 times per week
- Calcium – include seeds & dairy into your diet (opt for less processed foods)
- Magnesium – include avocados, dark chocolate & nuts
2. Focus on maximizing ROM (range of motion):
- In Every Exercise (this will initially be more exhausting but it will improve your awareness of self in space and time, as well as power output over time
- Try Yoga (there are many forms of yoga & diverse instructors… find one that speaks the same language as you – not literally – so you can enjoy everything he/she has to offer)
- Stretch DailyDynamic Stretches (generally pre-workout/-activity; see which work for you and get you excited to move!)
- Static Stretches (generally post-workout to cool-down & loosen-up the muscles you used during the workout/activity)
3. Sufficient (re-)hydration
- 250-500ml fluid every 1-3 hours (set reminders if you need)
- If exercising, 250ml for every 15 min. of activity
- Moderate caffeine intake (< 5 cups of coffee per day; remember, teas & gaurana also have caffeine content, so moderate that too!!)
Lastly, if you should blurt out profanities during a cramp please don’t direct it at anyone. It’s not their fault. More importantly, release by gently rubbing muscles in the surrounding area and slowly lengthen the muscle. You’re more likely to tear a muscle with any sudden opposing movements. And last, last point… comment some of your graceful, or graceless, cramping moments and what you learnt from it!
~ Yours in Wellness
- The Uncertain: “I’m pretty sure you (at muscle) shouldn’t be doing that.”
- The Pleader: “Please let me straighten my leg… ow! I even said please…”
- The Negotiator: “If you release, we won’t do leg day for a week.”
- The Drill-Sergeant: “You wanna contract?! Good! Give me 20 more!”
- Sodium: The Forgotten Nutrient
- Physical Endurance Drink
- Consumption of Nutritional Supplements Among Adolescents: Usage and Perceived Benefits
- Influence of Hydration and Electrolyte Supplementation on Incidence and Time to Onset of Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps