Running cramps can quickly turn an enjoyable workout into a miserable experience. Here are some facts and tips on what causes running cramps and how to avoid them.
There are many types of cramps that runners may experience. The majority of them can be classified as either muscle or side-stitch.
Muscle cramps can occur from a lack of stretching or loosening of the muscles - attempting to go too quick too soon. They can also occur from dehydration and/or an electrolyte deficiency. In fact, heat cramps are one of the warning signs for heat exhaustion and should be treated immediately by drinking some water or a sports drink.
Another cause of cramps is shallow breathing which ultimately leads to a lack of oxygen.
To help the side-stitch go away, take some deep breaths.
Starting a race too quickly and being out of breath can lead to this most notorious runner's cramp.
With proper conditioning and gradual intensity increases, this type of cramp should go away.
I've found that my workouts are a lot more productive and enjoyable when I work up to a steady breathing cadence.
This slow start allows my pace to gradually build up without getting those miserable cramps that come from being out-of-breath.
Another common cause of cramps is eating too much or not enough before a race or workout. Some foods that take longer to digest (meat, dairy, fats) could be in your stomach for hours and will likely make their presence known if you chose to eat & run.
So to review, here are some tips to help you avoid cramps.
I hope this helps you avoid running cramps and take advantage of the joys of running! If chest pain or any other sharp pain persists, please seek immediate medical attention.
Deciphering between pain and discomfort is an individual assessment, and only you can make the decision if your situation warrants professional help.