Muscles cramps are a common nuisance in sport. They can be unpredictable, happen without warning and be very unpleasant. Unfortunately, our calf muscles are the most susceptible. Once the cramping has stopped, it can leave the area sore and tender for several hours, and in race situations can lead to a loss of power and form.
In order to tackle this issue, several avenues should be explored to get a detailed picture of what is causing this disruption. To start with make sure you look into electrolytes and up your fluid intake, as deficiencies in these areas certainly can contribute to muscular cramps. However, there are other several potential culprits that could unintentionally be causing your calf to seize up:
Technique: Incorrect and poor technique can lead to overuse in a muscle group. As a result, it may become extremely tight, unable to relax and fire out of sync. As your calf is most susceptible, there’s a chance that this muscle could be overcompensating for a biomechanical weakness. E.g. when cycling, are you pushing down with your heel or your toes? Or are you producing more power when pedalling on your right side than your left? It may be a good idea to get a bike fit and see if you’re optimising your power. This will highlight if you’re favouring one side or overusing different muscles more than you should.
Equipment: Consider wrong-fitting kit. Ask yourself, are your bike shoes too tight? Is there minimal movement around your cleats, so the heel is limited in its range? This could affect the foot’s ability to centre itself when pedalling and means your calf
works more than necessary.
Poor circulation: Our muscles rely on the efficient circulation of blood to provide them with the necessary nutrients to function correctly. If there are delays in this mechanism, then this could lead to sub-optimal muscle function. A blood test will help highlight any anomalies.
Potassium and magnesium deficiency: Magnesium helps relax the muscles, while potassium facilitates muscle contractions. Low levels of these minerals can inhibit muscle relaxation, which can cause rigidity, increased tension and impaired function.
Fatigue: If you’re not getting sufficient rest and your muscles are constantly tired, this can potentially lead to cramps. Try stretching after exercise and on a regular basis to provide temporary relief and accelerate recover