running cramps

Enough cramps. How to avoid cramps when running

Enough cramps. How to avoid cramps when running

Try to imagine this senario in your head: In the last quarter of a race you get cramps in the legs. Cramps begin to appear in calf muscles. Little by little light cramps arrive, first a warning, not too strong, then stronger… and then the muscle stays blocked up, tense and sticks definitively. Not to mention the thighs after a very long and steep descent. how to do so in such a delicate situation!!! This is the best article that explains why muscle cramps occur and how to avoid them.

I have looked everywhere for tips to avoid cramps and in the end I have managed to get an idea to avoid them, or at least, to get much less.  

In this article I will give you the necessary weapons to fight your personal war against cramps during mountain races, marathons,ext…

You have to know your enemy. It is necessary to know what cramps are, why cramps appear, what to do to prevent cramps and what to do when cramps unfortunately appear.

The formula for victory: a combination of training and nutrition.!!!

running cramps

What are muscle cramps?

Cramps are sudden, violent muscle aches caused by the involuntary contraction of one or more muscles. Cramps can also be defined as a state of fatigue that can originate due to a water-electrolyte imbalance or an energy deficit

In this definition he already gives us a couple of indications that may be interesting:

Electrolyte imbalance

Energy deficit

Water imbalance, so water … and electrolyte … so you go out. In other words, an imbalance between the amount of mineral salts and the water in our body.

Energy deficit, that is, a muscle that is tired and cannot take any more.

Cramps are one of the most common problems among runners but although they are very common, many runners do not know why they come and how they could be avoided.

What to do when you get a cramp in a race?

It has happened to me more than once. Passing a runner because he was stopped due to cramping problems and magically, after some hour of racing, I saw him go by like a rocket again.

What to do to recover from cramps? What to do when we get a cramp? because you can be sure that sooner or later they will arrive.

1.The first thing to do is undoubtedly stop.

It is even possible that the same pain forces us to stop, but if you really want to pass this phase of crisis, stop for a moment, nothing happens if you lose a couple of minutes.

If you continue to run, the situation could get worse and when the cramps will return, they will come back much stronger and more intense, and it will be much more difficult to fix the situation and may need a quarter of an hour or even … have to leave.

It is important to be cold-blooded and rational, you have to stop at that moment.

stop it

2.You have to do stretching.

As soon as you have stopped, you have to do a little stretching in the affected muscle or muscle group.

Just a little stretching, don’t overdo it. It is a very, very light stretch and always progressively to avoid a more serious injury.

It is enough to simply do the same stretching exercises that we do every day during training sessions. Do not invent anything new. Nobody would like to quit a career because of cramps.


3.Hydrate properly with fluids that contain electrolytes

Once you have stopped and have done a few progressive stretches, you can follow some rules that will help you fully recover, or at least, allow you to continue running to reach the end or until the next refreshment.

After having stretched, you have to drink, it would be better if we had an isotonic drink since they normally contain some mineral salts and provide a little carbohydrates (sugars).



4.Eating something will help you recover sooner

It would also be appropriate to eat something, a little fruit or an energy bar. Pay attention because it will take 15 to 30 minutes before these foods enter the bloodstream.

Cramps do not go away immediately after eating a banana

If they disappear, you have a psychosomatic problem, your brain is playing a joke on you. But hey, if it works, then go ahead

In the case in which the cause of the cramps is a problem of hydration and balance of mineral salts, if you have stopped, stretched, drank and eaten, the cramps should gradually disappear.

From this moment on, you should continue to feed and hydrate yourself with fluids with salts and sugars continuously to prevent the muscles from returning to a state of abstinence from these elements.

energy bar

5.Start running slowly and little by little

If the cause of the cramps is mainly determined by a problem of exertion too intense, in this case, after you have done the stretches and have eaten something, you have to go back to running little by little.

You can even start walking and then progressively increase the level of intensity. Surely you run slower but at least you will arrive safely.

And if after all these countermeasures, the problem of cramps persists and the pain increases, unfortunately it will be the moment when you will have to think about abandoning the race.

If you insist and get stubborn, you could have a much bigger injury and even compromise a few months of the season.

I know, it is very difficult to give up a career, but believe me, it is much more difficult to stay still for three or four months because of an injury.

I do not recommend the feeling of not being able to go running on a good day. Then you will think: I should have stopped

How to prevent muscle cramps during a race?

Why do we have to focus on what to do when cramps appear, when we could work earlier to prevent them from happening?

Like any problem, the ideal would be to work on prevention to prevent cramps from appearing.

These are the basic rules to avoid muscle cramps during a race.

1.You have to specifically train strength for long distance races

Never stop strength training. More and more coaches and level runners agree that strength is the central physical ability to prevent cramps from occurring.

A good base of strength is also essential to improve the characteristics of a runner.

If the fact of strength training is a concept that does not cross your mind and when you hear the word “strength” the only thing that works for you is Star Wars …

star wars

It is time for you to change and dedicate some day of training to improve the strength of your legs.

If you have never done specific strength exercises for long distance races, you should start with an adaptation period with the more or less generic exercises, and then gradually increase the complexity and get to do exercises that resemble the gestures that we made the before a hard race.

Later we will increase the weights and increase the time of muscular effort.

If you want to increase strength, you have to work, you have to increase muscle fatigue, you can:

Increase the distance you train

Increase the intensity of workouts

Make changes of pace

Include transitions up and down or vice versa,

Do some cross training such as cycling

You have to bring the body to a state of discomfort that will allow it to make the physiological changes that will make you gain strength and help prevent muscle cramps.

You could also force a certain level of fatigue before training, for example you could do some uphill sets or just some squats before your running session.

In this way, the muscles will already be tired and the training will be somewhat more like the conditions that you will encounter during the race.

For lazy runners who do not want to go to a gym or do not want to do series of ups or downs, I advise you two, just two basic exercises that are a pump for those who have never done strength exercises. It only takes 15 minutes.

Calf raises for those lazy runners.

You stand with the balls of your feet on a step, the rest of the foot staying in the air. And then you just lift your heels up, slowly. Try to stay in the high position for a couple of seconds and then go back down, always slowly. It is enough to do 15 repetitions and four series. If you want to increase the difficulty level buy some dumbbells and come and repeat it.

Jump lifts

They are used for everything, going up, going down, even to go shopping! Haha.

It is the king exercise to improve and tone the muscles of the lower body since this exercise involves many muscles.

It starts with one foot on a chair or step and the other foot on the ground. He gets on and takes a little jump.

With this exercise you will work the muscles concentrically and eccentrically, that is, you will be training for the ups and downs. As before, do 4 sets of 15 repetitions.

If you have not done a strength exercise in your life, I assure you that it will cost you to walk the next day.

Try to do these exercises at least twice a week. After a couple of weeks that you are doing this training, I will stop feeling pain in my legs, the muscles will be stronger so you should increase the weight or the number of repetitions. You are on the right track.

Stronger legs will make you go further

2.Hydration when not running

Drink before, during, and after the race.

Much better if you combine it with isotonic drinks that contain some salt. In the longer races, you could even take mineral salt tablets, always with the right amount of water.

It is also very important to continue drinking salt water after the race as it will help you recover earlier and allow you to return to training more quickly.

3.Balanced diet to avoid cramps

A balanced diet is important to ensure that the body has everything it needs to be able to train and run.

What foods to avoid cramps? Priority should be given to vitamins and vegetables that contain many mineral salts and antioxidants. Do not forget the fruit, the cereals, the legumes. Include citrus fruits with a high potassium content, and don’t forget the famous “anti-cramp” myth bananas.


You have to eat little fat , especially if they was of animal origin because they do not promote blood circulation.

The cramps come because the muscles lack food and this food comes with the blood.

The less fats there are in the blood, it will be more fluid and circulation will be easier so it will reach the cells without problems to feed them.

Poor and low-quality nutrition increases inflammation and oxidation in the body. The same goes for a diet that is too small for your needs, eating too elaborate food or eating without respecting meal times.

Eating and drinking before and after workouts is also very important. The foods we eat should be anti-inflammatory to help the body recover, they should not be the ones that cause discomfort.

4.Warm up before the race

I believe that the warm-up is essential especially for more or less short and high intensity races.

You have to increase the temperature of the muscles before you start asking them for a significant effort.

You should warm up for about 10-20 minutes so that the blood flow fills the capillaries with blood and reaches the muscles abundantly.

For longer races, however, the warm-up can take a backseat because in a 10-hour race, you have plenty of time for your muscles to reach the right temperature. Start running slowly and progressively, the first kilometers will be your warm-up

5.Improve trail running technique

Especially for downhills where the muscles are in high demand and there are more chances of cramping.

A proper technique will help you reduce energy demand and distribute your effort more efficiently among the different parts of the body, avoiding overloading a particular part.

A refined technique avoids unusual movements that involve smaller muscles less prepared for great efforts.

The ups and downs are the distinguishing key of mountain racing, but it is true that they can cost a bit … 


The New Theory Against Cramps: Strong Flavors



Well, thanks to the work of two scientists, you’re better off biting into a ghost pepper or chewing on a hunk of wasabi than going for the traditional banana-and-sports-drink approach. And not just because the pain in your mouth will distract from the pain in your leg, although that probably couldn’t hurt. 

Doctors Rod MacKinnon and Bruce Bean (the former won the Nobel Prize in 2003) discovered that the short bursts of muscle stiffness and pain are more of a nerve issue than a muscular one. If your lazy ass gets them while you’re dead asleep, then it’s clear they aren’t the result of physical exertion, so MacKinnon and Bean theorized that the nervous system could accidentally be firing impulses to your muscles causing them to cramp up. And it’s not just a protective pain, like what happens when you burn yourself; we humans just have internal kinks that need to be worked out. Thanks, evolution. 

Doctor Rod MacKinnon theory holds that cramps are due to nervous problems rather than muscle fatigue problems or electrolyte imbalance problems.

The basic idea holds that cramps are manifested because, for some reason, the neurons that control the movement of the muscles, send the wrong message to these muscles, causing cramps to be generated and consequently pain.

This strategy consists of distracting these neurons through a strong flavor such as pickled gherkins, mustard, ginger. As soon as this strong flavor reaches the receptors in the mouth, the nervous system is in conflict, forgetting to cause cramps, allowing the muscles to work properly.


  • Focus your workouts on your weaknesses. You have to strengthen the muscles that are prone to cramps. Add specific strength exercises to these muscles during your training sessions.


  • Eat real food, little processed, or as little processed as possible. That is, foods that are as close as possible to their natural state. In reference to canned or ready-made foods, read the list of ingredients carefully, and if you can’t pronounce any or they are things you have never heard … it means that they do not belong to your body. Eat foods rich in antioxidants (like vitamins A, C, E) and anti-inflammatories. Eat enough, not too much, not too little.


  • Why not, try the strong flavors technique. It might work well for some of you.


  • Attentive! because we are not all the same and we do not all have the same propensity for cramps. The propensity for cramps also depends on genetic factors that we cannot intervene in. Being more or less sensitive will force us to be more or less attentive to this argument.


  • Hydrate the body properly and regularly with water. Add a supplement rich in electrolytes. Avoid carbonated drinks that are full of sugars.


                                                     Happy and safe run dear champions

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