by Lesley Handley
Muscle Cramps in Long Distance Running
Lots of what we hear is that muscle cramps centre around hydration, electrolytes, salt etc. While these play a role in preventing and helping cramps when they kick in, there’s a lot more that we can do to try and control them in the first instance.
When you start running, you generally start with a nice upright posture and a steady foot strike… however you don’t always finish that way as fatigue kicks in. When good form falls apart, hamstrings, quads and calves tend to take the fall first!
Hamstrings cramp when:
- The upper body rounds forward
- The lower back arches
- The hips sink back
- You stop utilizing the glutes
- Ultimately the hamstrings are left to drive the stride alone
Quads cramp when:
- The foot strike becomes more like a shuffle
- The hamstrings aren’t working to pick the feet up off the ground
- The feet are spending more time on the ground than they are lifting off it
- Essentially the quads are taking all the impact
Calves cramp when:
- The hips are no longer pushing forward
- The feet begin striking the ground in varying positions
- The calves are left to absorb all the impact
As well as considering the above, 3 things you can do to help prevent cramps or help if they kick in are:
- BREATHE – oxygen helps fuel the muscles. As we tire our breathing gets shallower. Focus on deeper breathing to help fuel those muscles.
- RELAX THE UPPER BODY – don’t let the shoulders tense up towards your ears and don’t keep your arms rigidly bent to prevent little arm swing that helps drive the legs. Relax the upper body, give the arms a shake out and reset your arm swing, which in turn helps power the stride.
- SHORTEN YOUR STRIDE – the further the foot reaches out the more the body must do to keep up. Focus on pulling the feet off the ground and a little higher and in turn this fires the hamstrings and glutes allowing the hips to drive forward.