You have trained intensively for months in preparation for your race. Physically and mentally, you feel fully prepared. You have set an ambitious goal time and are determined to do everything you can to meet it. But then, halfway through the race, an intense cramp in your calf overwhelms you. What should you do next? And how can you avoid such cramps in the future?
First aid for cramps - this is how to reach the finish line
- Stop and stretch: Immediately reduce your pace and stop if necessary. Gently stretch the muscle by pulling your toes up toward your shin. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds.
- Massage the cramp: Gently massage the area where the cramp occurs. This can help relax the muscle.
- Hydrate: Dehydration is a possible cause, carefully drink a few sips of water, sports drinks are even better because of the extra electrolytes.
- Potassium or magnesium: A shortage of potassium or magnesium can cause cramps. You can find this mineral in sports drinks, but bananas, for example, are also a natural source of potassium. Sports drinks work after 10 to 15 minutes, a banana takes a little longer. It takes 15 to 30 minutes before you notice an effect.
- Keep moving: Try gentle walking as soon as the cramping subsides and then gently accelerate back to your normal pace.
The ultimate preparation - this is how to prevent muscle cramps
- Sufficient fluids: Drink enough in the last 2 hours before the race, about 1 liter. In the last 15 minutes, you may want to drink some sports drink. This contains sugars, so it is not only good for your fluid balance, but also for your energy reserves.
- Warm-up: Do a short warm-up before the race if you are prone to cramps. This will allow your muscles to start the race relaxed.
- Slow down: Reduce your workouts and intensity in the last 1.5-1 week before the competition. This gives your muscles time to recover and replenish glycogen stores.
- Sufficient carbs: Make sure you eat enough carbs leading up to the race to fully replenish your glycogen stores.
- Strength training and stability exercises: These stimulate the neuromuscular system, which can help prevent fatigue during a race. According to a recent theory, cramping can result from neuromuscular overload, especially over long distances. This would explain why cramping often occurs toward the end of a race.
Remember, everyone is different. Find out what works for you by trying different things. And if serious cramps keep coming back, consult an expert. You're on your way to peak performance!