How to prevent those annoying muscle cramps
Cramps are both painful and annoying. Especially when they happen during your Pilates class and you are missing out on an exercise or stretch because you are rolling around in pain. But what is a cramp and how can you help to prevent them?
What is a cramp?
The exact causes of a cramp are somewhat of a mystery. What is known, is that a muscle contracts and relaxes by receiving messages from the brain via the nervous system. Cramping occurs when this system is impaired and the muscle goes into spasm and gets stuck in the contraction phase. A cramped muscle feels hard to touch because it’s in full ‘on’ mode, to the point of pain. Any muscle can go into cramp but the ones that are most likely to are:
· front of thigh (quadriceps)
· back of thigh (hamstrings)
Everyone experiences cramps from time to time and some people are more prone to cramping than others. However, there are a few things we can do to try and prevent them:
· Ensure you have eaten the right foods to give you a good balance of electrolytes
The nervous system sends messages to and from the brain to tell the muscle when it needs to relax or contract. It is guided by a balance of electrolytes (potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium) to do this. If your muscle is cramping because it’s not getting the signal to relax, it is often because it doesn't have enough of one or more of these electrolytes to send the message. Eating foods that are high in these electrolytes before your workout may help– click here to see a suggest list of foods.
Water helps take the electrolytes where they are needed in the body. Even small shortfalls in hydration levels can lead to impaired electrical signalling and an increased risk of cramping.
Not over-working muscles
Over-trained and fatigued muscles are more likely to cramp.
Warm-up and stretch
Muscles that are supple and sufficiently conditioned are more unlikely to cramp.