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How do I avoid cramp!

Price_jgPrice_jg Posts: 17
edited February 2015 in Training, fitness and health
I have just come home from a 50 mile ride and towards the end of the ride my ride developed a really bad cramp. I was going up a small climb and stood up for a steep bit when my thighs completely seized up with cramp! I had to stop and almost fell off the bike as my legs wouldn't move. It did subside a little and I was able to get home but my question is, how do I avoid this from happening in the future? Any tips or experience would be most appreciated.

Posts

  • ai_1ai_1 Posts: 3,060
    I don't think there's a single easy answer. I've gotten calf and/or quad cramps in 140-200km sportives. Occasions when this occured seemed to correlate with rides where I had allowed myself get dehydrated. However I think it's also happened on a ride when I was pretty sure hydration was not a problem. I also do some multi-sport racing and switching between disciplines is definitely a major trigger for calf cramps after 2.5 or 3hrs of racing.
    Sorry not to be able to give an easy answer!
  • Drink more water. If you don't stop during the ride for a piss then you are dehydrated.
  • I didn't think I was dehydrated, I drank about 1200ml of water with hydration tabs in. Maybe it wasn't enough as I didn't stop for a wee!
  • Omar LittleOmar Little Posts: 2,040
    No-one knows the cause of exercise related cramps - from my own perspective it seems to be more about fitness / conditioning than hydration. If i am pushing myself either to ride longer or ride harder than normal then i am more likely to get cramps.
  • ai_1ai_1 Posts: 3,060
    Drink more water. If you don't stop during the ride for a wee-wee then you are dehydrated.
    Price_jg wrote:
    I didn't think I was dehydrated, I drank about 1200ml of water with hydration tabs in. Maybe it wasn't enough as I didn't stop for a wee!
    Not having to stop is not definitive evidence that you're dehydrated, unless of course you've been in the saddle for quite some time. I rarely need a stop on a ride under 100km (62miles). I also regualrly go 4hrs without needing to visit the toilet when I'm not cycling!

    I agree with Omar, I don't think I've ever gotten a cramp on a ride that wasn't either further, more intense or both than my usual activities.
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,003
    Dehydration on a 50-miler is unlikely to be a major factor at this time of year...
  • mpattsmpatts Posts: 962
    You need a much more expensive bike. Only know solution.
    Insert bike here:
  • mpatts wrote:
    You need a much more expensive bike. Only know solution.

    Ha ha, not sure my mrs would agree! Think I just need to be fitter!
  • The cause of cramp is unknown at present. However, it is thought that it is fitness/fatigue related in most cases, e.g., if you ride harder than your current training, it can cause cramp.

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  • stu-bimstu-bim Posts: 406
    I have suffered from cramps in the past and very severely on a ride last year. Always been hydration and sodium levels related issues for me. Try and ensure you get a nice set of water before a long ride also maybe even a little of a sports drink. Not excessive as this will only force you to the bathroom and could force your electrolyte levels down.

    If it is a recurring issue then regular electrolyte drink during the days leading to a big ride, pref not a sodium based one and no sugar either
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  • frisbeefrisbee Posts: 691
    If you weren't regularly out of the saddle before the climb it could be the sudden change of style that caused it.
  • handfulhandful Posts: 914
    I suffer with cramp sometimes and tried all kinds of remedies. I now believe that it's just fitness in my case as it's only really when I exert myself more than the norm. One of the things I didn't get round to trying but apparently helps a lot of sufferers is Tums indigestion tablets. Google it and if you try them and they work update the thread! I might even try them myself when I up my mileage to the degree I start getting cramp again.
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  • neebneeb Posts: 4,362
    One thing to watch out for is dehydration combined with a sudden intake of fast carbs. The only time recently I've had serious cramp was towards the end of a longish sportive in temperatures around 30C, shortly after taking a large gel. The idea was to give me a boost up the final climb, but it did the opposite. If you are a bit dehydrated already, you must take lots of liquid together with any significant carb intake.

    But I agree with the above comments that cramp is also associated with pushing beyond the limits that you have established by your normal week-to-week routine.
  • hypsterhypster Posts: 1,183
    Price_jg wrote:
    I didn't think I was dehydrated, I drank about 1200ml of water with hydration tabs in. Maybe it wasn't enough as I didn't stop for a wee!

    Dehydration isn't an issue especially at this time of year but over-hydration with associated hyponatremia symptoms definitely is. 1200ml on a 50 mile ride is way more than you need. On a 50 mile hard, hilly ride last week I drank less than 500ml. I used to follow the "keep hydrated" mantra and suffered leg cramps on long rides and drank often. Then I discovered "Waterlogged" by Timothy Noakes and now only drink to thirst and consume about a third of the liquid I used to on a ride with no more cramping.

    Electrolytes are pointless too even though many will advise that they cure their cramps probably because that is one of the claims made by the supplement vendors. You may finish a ride slightly dehydrated but that is much easier to correct (by drinking surprise, surprise!) than over-hydration which can take hours to get over or in extreme cases be life-threatening.

    Give it a try and drink only when you are thirsty. What have you got to lose?
  • ai_1ai_1 Posts: 3,060
    hypster wrote:
    Price_jg wrote:
    I didn't think I was dehydrated, I drank about 1200ml of water with hydration tabs in. Maybe it wasn't enough as I didn't stop for a wee!

    Dehydration isn't an issue especially at this time of year but over-hydration with associated hyponatremia symptoms definitely is. 1200ml on a 50 mile ride is way more than you need. On a 50 mile hard, hilly ride last week I drank less than 500ml. I used to follow the "keep hydrated" mantra and suffered leg cramps on long rides and drank often. Then I discovered "Waterlogged" by Timothy Noakes and now only drink to thirst and consume about a third of the liquid I used to on a ride with no more cramping.

    Electrolytes are pointless too even though many will advise that they cure their cramps probably because that is one of the claims made by the supplement vendors. You may finish a ride slightly dehydrated but that is much easier to correct (by drinking surprise, surprise!) than over-hydration which can take hours to get over or in extreme cases be life-threatening.

    Give it a try and drink only when you are thirsty. What have you got to lose?
    I disagree. While you're correct that over-hydration is also an issue I think you're going to the other extreme. Depending on the weather, the intensity, the terrain and the individual's physiology, 1200ml may or may not be appropriate. I've done plenty 50 mile rides where I've consumed 2x610ml bottles and felt absolutely fine and others where I drank half this or ran short before the end and felt worse off for that shortfall. A 50 mile ride can be done on relatively little or no liquid intake but I doubt it's optimum. On longer rides it's more critical but i don't believe over-drinking is as prevalent as you seem to suggest.
  • rc856rc856 Posts: 1,139
    I use Nuun tablets which I believe help me for calf cramps I used to get.
    I can still get a bit of cramp in my thighs when out the saddle but think this goes as I get fitter.

    A few weeks ago I got really bad cramp in one thigh...completely locked out...as I stood out the saddle.
    I'd only gone 60miles.

    The following Sunday I was on 95 miles when I got home and felt so good I did a few laps of an estate near home to take it up to the century!
    Go figure!!
  • As many have said, I find electrolyte tabs help me a lot. I used to get a lot of cramp, just generally, not just from cycling. Now I tend to take an electrolyte drink whenever I do any sporting exercise and my cramp has virtually stopped.

    Although it could be argued that I am a lot fitter now too.
  • sbbefcsbbefc Posts: 188
    I had extreme cramp in the Pyreneese last year. Both my calves and thighs locked up at the same time and caused my legs to lock up, subsequently toppled over and couldn't bend my legs for a few mins. Happened a couple of times before I got to the col which was only 0.5km away.

    I can only think dehydration was the cause. It was on the second day after a 30c+ day before.
  • hypsterhypster Posts: 1,183
    One cannot help but feel for all those poor athletes who must have suffered constantly with cramps before High 5, Nuun et al came along and cured them. :roll:
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    hypster wrote:
    One cannot help but feel for all those poor athletes who must have suffered constantly with cramps before High 5, Nuun et al came along and cured them. :roll:

    They took salt tablets (and many still do) - not quite as pleasant.

    Let's face it, you're not going to get hyponatremia from 1200ml of water - especially not over two hours (that actually falls within Noakes' guidelines).

    Regardless of how it works, Zero tabs help me to fend off cramp without a doubt - even if it's a placebo effect. Besides that, my water tastes nicer with them in.

    The point is this: because we aren't sure of the causes of cramp we also aren't sure how to prevent it. The chances are that there are several causes and therefore a number of preventative measures.
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  • hypsterhypster Posts: 1,183
    hypster wrote:
    One cannot help but feel for all those poor athletes who must have suffered constantly with cramps before High 5, Nuun et al came along and cured them. :roll:

    They took salt tablets (and many still do) - not quite as pleasant.

    Let's face it, you're not going to get hyponatremia from 1200ml of water - especially not over two hours (that actually falls within Noakes' guidelines).

    Regardless of how it works, Zero tabs help me to fend off cramp without a doubt - even if it's a placebo effect. Besides that, my water tastes nicer with them in.

    The point is this: because we aren't sure of the causes of cramp we also aren't sure how to prevent it. The chances are that there are several causes and therefore a number of preventative measures.

    I agree. I am not actually claiming that consuming 1200ml of water over two hours will lead to full-blown, life-threatening hyponatremia but I am speculating (based on my own experiences) that drinking that much over two hours in the current climate is excessive and could produce a dilution effect in the muscles. Enough maybe to cause cramping, even if electrolytes are included in the fluid. It also seems logical to me as well to suppose that if the body already has adequate or even excess minerals and vitamins (as is more likely) for vital functions, then any electrolytes in the drink will just be flushed staight out in the urine rather than absorbed.

    As per our discussion on the other thread, it's not known definitively what causes muscle cramps and I am hypothesizing that over-hydration could contribute to muscle cramps in some individuals under certain conditions. Your experience is that electrolytes help prevent cramp "without a doubt", if anyone can be that certain. My experience is that they make no difference whatsoever and that the amount of fluid I intake has more of an effect. If electrolyte deficiency were the cause of muscle cramps then everyone taking them on a ride would not suffer cramps which is clearly not the case based on the number of times this topic crops up.

    I am also convinced that other people are also drinking too much, under the false impression that dehydration is one step away from death by heat stroke which it obviously isn't. Elite marathon runners very rarely drink anything at all even in quite hot conditions and finish dehydrated after over two hours running at pace without any problems.
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    Well, we're at risk of just raking over the same points for the umteenth time. Yes, I'm convinced, after countless good and bad experiences, that Zero tabs work FOR ME.

    And, yes, I'm sure marathon runners can go two hours without a drink. I take a bottle with me (never more than one) and will do two hours at +/-20mph and will have maybe drunk 200ml.

    As I've also said too many times to be interesting, I don't believe cyclists are at anything like the risk of, say, amateur marathon runners - there's simply not the supply of water even on supported events.

    But let's agree to agree on the common ground and agree to differ on the rest. Life's too short.
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  • neebneeb Posts: 4,362
    sbbefc wrote:
    I had extreme cramp in the Pyreneese last year. Both my calves and thighs locked up at the same time and caused my legs to lock up, subsequently toppled over and couldn't bend my legs for a few mins. Happened a couple of times before I got to the col which was only 0.5km away.

    I can only think dehydration was the cause. It was on the second day after a 30c+ day before.
    Sorry... but you know how sometimes something can be really unfortunate and painful for the person concerned and you can feel sympathy, but at the same time it can be really funny..? :wink::)
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