Whether you're competing in a marathon or just going for a short jog after work, getting a cramp is always something runners hope to steer clear of.
From a side stitch in your abdominal area to a Charley horse in your calf, cramping up can force you to start walking, come to a screeching halt and just overall, ruin your run.
Although there isn't significant evidence-based research on how to avoid getting a cramp while running, experts do have plenty of recommendations on how to decrease your chances of cramping up.
Here are eight ways to help stop cramps from getting in between you and your next run or race.
Stay hydrated.From facilitating with weight loss to relieving headaches to improving athletic ability, drinking plenty of water throughout the day can do miraculous things for one's body.
Although past research hasn't proven that dehydration causes cramps, experts do believe that it may reduce the degree of pain to which a cramp causes a person.
A survey-based study in the Journal of Sports Rehabilitation found that most responders indicated that dehydration was among the reasons they suffered from exercise-associated muscle cramps.
They found that fluid replacement was successful for treating and preventing their cramping, the study said.
Replenish with electrolytes.If you're planning to take part in any kind of athletic activity, including running, you'll want to make sure you're consuming electrolytes in your diet.Electrolytes are ions in the body that conduct electricity and they're important for a wide range of body functions, including athletic performance. When your body isn't given enough electrolytes it can cause muscle weakness and excessive contraction and cramping of muscles, according to Medical Daily News.
The body's main electrolytes include potassium, sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium. Eating a diet rich in those nutrients, including bananas, pickles, kale, and yogurt, will help ensure a proper electrolyte balance.
Stretch before you run.Once a specific muscle starts cramping, light stretching can be a great way to alleviate your pain and discomfort. But you don't have to wait until you feel the twinge to act.Stretching before a run will help your body warm up and decrease your chances of experiencing cramps, muscle strains, and injuries during your run, according to Healthline.
Don't eat directly before a run.Eating a meal minutes before you plan to sit on the couch and watch a movie is a great idea. But doing the same minutes before a run is a different story.
Experts advise against drinking large amounts of water or eating within two hours of a run. A 2005 study in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that runners who consumed a large amount of food relative to their body weight one to two hours before a race were more likely to develop symptoms exercise-related transient abdominal pain, also known as a side stitch.
Keep track of what you eat and see how it affects you.If you keep a food log for about a week, you can learn a lot about yourself and your body, including which foods make you bloated, why you feel more tired on certain days and what might be causing you to cramp up while running.
According to Active.com, runners should try to keep a log for a full weekthat details what you eat and drink, how long before a run you eat or drink and how you feel during your runs. This will help you determine which habits will work best for your exercise.
Pace yourself.If you have ever run competitively, you know that you should never start a run or a race out to fast. For starters, if you go out too fast you will most likely crash and burn. But you are also putting yourself in jeopardy of a muscle cramp.A 2010 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that runners who ran at a faster pace at the start of their race were more likely to develop exercise-associated muscle cramping.
To try and reduce your chances of getting a muscle cramp, start by running slowly and settle into your goal pace as you go.
Monitor your breathing.If you're struggling from an abdominal cramp or side stitch during a run, chances are it's related to your breathing.
William Roberts, a physician at the University of Minnesota St. John's Hospital, wrote in an article for Runner's World that most abdominal cramps subside when you start deep breathing with your diaphragm in order to fill your lungs full with oxygen.
"If you are not using your diaphragm, you will limit your oxygen supply, and this may be the cause of your cramping and your heavy legs," Roberts wrote in the article.
Practice some jumping drills. Repeatedly hitting the pavement and running more will surely make you a better runner, but so will adding some jumping and skipping drills known as plyometrics.
Plyometric drills are training exercises that are proven to help improve athletic performance, and they're also believed to delay muscle fatigue and therefore muscle cramping.
When you add some plyometric drills to your training — such as box jumping or jumping lunges — it will help relieve tight muscles, improve coordination between your muscles and nerves to avoid cramping and make your muscles stronger overall, according to Runner's World.