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Author Topic: Preventing foot and leg cramps?  (Read 978 times)

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Offline Query

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Preventing foot and leg cramps?
« on: July 15, 2016, 01:07:30 PM »
I've sometimes been getting foot cramps (contracting on the underside), occasionally thigh cramps.

Not when I skate. When I swim.

I think the traditional answer to this sort of thing is that cramps are caused by diet - not enough electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, possibly magnesium, because those ions are involved in firing muscles.

But I've tried eating salty things, and bananas first. Doesn't fix it.

I think I have figured out that if I eat something with a lot of protean before the exercise, it is more likely.

Once I get the cramp, it helps somewhat if I stretch against the force of the muscle. Also, soaking in a hot tub helps a little, for some reason.

I've tried consciously relaxing the muscles that are cramping - that doesn't work.

Swimming at all efficiently does tend to involve pointing the toes. I'm not very flexible, so it is a bit of a push for me to do that. But it goes away within 15 - 60 minutes, so I don't think I've actually sprained any muscles.

Anyone else had this problem? Any ideas on how to prevent this?

Offline skategeek

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Re: Preventing foot and leg cramps?
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2016, 02:42:12 PM »
Low calcium levels can also be an issue; I discovered a few years ago that my vit D was low, and when I started supplementing both that and calcium the frequency of foot/leg cramps went down.  Also, being tired/dehydrated/cold can contribute.  When I went snorkeling a few years ago I kept getting foot cramps; our guide suggested my fins were too long for me and the extra force I needed to move the fin through the water was leading to cramps.  The treatment in that case was to grab the end of the fin and pull it up towards me (flexing the foot), which helped, but usually the best thing I can do for foot cramps is to walk it off.

Offline riley876

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Re: Preventing foot and leg cramps?
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2016, 04:43:00 PM »
I'd look at magnesium first.   Then possibly potassium. 

Offline skategeek

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Re: Preventing foot and leg cramps?
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2016, 05:29:28 PM »
Hmm.  My calcium supplement also includes magnesium.  For all I know that was the actual problem, not the calcium itself.

Offline Query

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Re: Preventing foot and leg cramps?
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2016, 06:42:42 AM »
Muscle overuse might be a factor for me. In particular, the places I cramp seem to be the same muscles used to point toes.

Anyway, I just tried to look up what is lost in sweat:


  http://chemistry.about.com/od/chemicalcomposition/f/What-Is-The-Chemical-Composition-Of-Human-Sweat-Or-Perspiration.htm
  Discusses elements


  http://www.jbc.org/content/149/2/479.full.pdf
  Discusses vitamins


  https://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/715/electrolytes-understanding-replacement-options

  Electrolyte replacement pre- and post- exercise in general
  Ace certifies certified personal trainers (ATCs)
  Note claim that potassium is largely irrelevant to cramps.
  I do notice a layer of stuff on my skin after sweating - I guess I am a "salty sweater".
  Interesting that chlorides aren't included in everything that has sodium...


I haven't drawn any conclusions yet. I'm going to look at what standard (e.g., Centrum brand and generics) daily vitamin pills include, to see if they are enough.

Offline nicklaszlo

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Re: Preventing foot and leg cramps?
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2016, 09:04:49 PM »
Dehydration.

In my experience, this happens frequently in people who do not swim frequently but hardly ever in people who swim regularly.  So I think conditioning is part of it.

Don't eat a lot of anything before exercising vigorously.  It leads to vomiting, which is very problematic when swimming.

Offline Doubletoe

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Re: Preventing foot and leg cramps?
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2016, 06:37:06 PM »
If your feet (and inner thighs, you said?) cramp when you swim but not when you skate, then I would not suspect dehydration or calcium, sodium or potassium levels.  If one of those factors were the culprit, I'd think it would happen when you skate, too.  I think it must be that you are using different muscles in different ways when you swim and they haven't become conditioned yet.  I get a little arch cramping from pointing my feet when I swim, too.  It's just like when I first started skating and used to get arch cramps because I wasn't used to using those particular foot muscles.  When I get foot cramps from swimming, I just grab the rail, put my foot flat against the wall of the pool with my leg straight, then pull my torso forward to get a calf and arch stretch.  Rolling the arch of the foot on a tennis ball afterwards is awesome, too.

Offline Query

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Re: Preventing foot and leg cramps?
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2016, 12:21:35 AM »
I drink lots of water, before, during and after. It often doesn't satisfy my thirst - maybe my body is telling me I need something else too.

I get no major adverse reactions from eating just before I exercise, except that I have a little less energy. One retired swim coach said food would make me heavier, and swim worse. But I'm not a great swimmer anyway.

I'd much rather consider my (relatively mild) type 2 diabetes, and make sure I have enough water and food in me to deal with any potential dangers. So I always eat, drink lots of water, and usually use a sports drink with calories (unfortunately sugars - not ideal for type 2 diabetes, but I figure I'm about to burn them away), sodium and potasium. It had not occurred to me to make sure I had enough magnesium, calcium, or vitamin C.

All I can do is read some more, experiment, and get more experience. Doubletoe's remarks give me some hope that it will go away with practice.

Oddly enough, some of the lifeguards, including guys who used to compete on swim teams, told me they sometimes cramp too. It's not just me.

Thanks, guys!

Offline sampaguita

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Re: Preventing foot and leg cramps?
« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2016, 09:03:37 PM »
I had the same problem before. Stretching AFTER skating (not before) helped a lot :) No more cramps, as long as I stretch enough!