How to prevent muscle cramp during exercise

It comes to nearly everyone sooner or later – here are some tried-and-tested remedies


Suffering from cramp during races? Tried magnesium tablets, but wondering if there anything else you can do to prevent it? Triathlon coach Mark Kleanthous offers a helping hand…


Exercise-associated muscle cramping (EAMC) can be easy to solve, if you understand why it happens. Everyone is different, though, and certain individual factors increase the chances of cramp occurring: muscle fatigue, electrolyte deficiency, changes in gait, tight muscles and tightness in the surrounding area.

Pre-race remedies include drinking the correct amount of fluids based on your daily requirements and sweat rate (get a sweat test – knowing your sweat rate and salt loss for the duration and intensity is vital in preventing dehydration); strengthening and stretching exercises; ingesting carbohydrate during exercise to help produce normal gait patterns when energy levels become low; and supplementation, such as magnesium, that can restore electrolyte imbalances within 48hrs.

If you’re already taking magnesium tablets, also make sure that your diet contains plenty of naturally-occurring magnesium-rich foods, such as avocado, dark leafy greens, nuts, pumpkin seeds, fish, bananas and dark chocolate.

Athletes often experience cramp in their race rather than in their training because they don’t train at their race-specific pace. Regular massage will also prevent cramp, as will compression clothing worn during training, racing and recovery.

The site of a cramp will be an area that’s not able to cope with the demands placed on it at that particular time. In a triathlon, the adaption between each discipline places great strain on the muscles, so consider the following remedies to prevent cramps reoccurring when racing:

■ Always allow plenty of time for a pre-race warm-up: 3-5mins in each discipline.

■ During the race, make sure that you’re well-hydrated and increase your electrolyte intake. It’s better to drink little and often than to drink a lot but infrequently.

■ Always build your pace in each discipline – don’t start fast.

(Images: Getty / Jonny Gawler)


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