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Running Cramps

So why do i get cramps when i run?

Running cramps happening for various reasons and can be broken as per my perception to three categories.

The first category is dehydration, the second is when an athlete is pushing the body beyond its limits and muscle fatigue occurs.  I will not consider the deficiency of magnesium or other aminos as a reason of running cramps since I haven’t read any study that proves that.  The last category is just some athletes they get cramps and some others don’t.

Cramps While Running

So why do i get cramps when i run? 

Probably during your normal training you will not experience cramping especially if you are not a beginner runner since you already build up your running body and you most probably follow the training cycle of warming up and taking care your body with stretching. 

A reason to start getting cramps is when you dehydrate your body on the race day or even on a hot training day.  This can be taken care if you be more careful with your hydration tactic at a race day and hydration routine at your training sessions.

As per the second category of running cramps because of muscle fatigue, usually athletes that get muscle cramps can experience them on the race day and not so often in their training sessions.  Whatever a runner do on a training day will never meet the effort of that big race day that was preparing for months to beat his Personal Best or hit his BQ!!  The athlete may goes off quickly at the start and muscles experience something new and fatigue hits more quickly or maybe the muscles cannot match the effort and they try to close down in order to protect the athlete from getting injured.

Pickle juice and Cramps

In a study that was published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers at a University used electrical stimulation to cause muscle cramps before and after athletes cycled indoors in a hot environment until they were 3% dehydrated.

The result showed that dehydrated athletes didn’t got cramps earlier than those that they were not dehydrated.  That shows that dehydration is not connected with cramps but in my humble opinion we shouldn’t take it for as a fact since I believe more research must be done on this.

Moreover a logic assumption that can be made is that running cramps cannot be caused by dehydration since someone can argue that once an athlete fix the cramp by just stretching;that means is not related to hydration.

stretching for running cramps
Photo Photo by Christina Moroz on Unsplash

My personal opinion is that that cramps can be caused by dehydration since a big percentage of the muscle is made of water and other nutrients and further research must be done on this subject.

Moreover in this study they offer pickle juice to those athletes to see if they can eliminate the cramps faster.  It looks that pickle brine eliminated the athlete cramps around 37% faster than those athletes that took water and 45% faster than those that didn’t had anything to drink.

The reason they believe that pickle juice eliminate cramps faster is because it sends a signal to the brain to tell the muscles to stop contracting and relax.  Today a lot of companies are making commercial cramp sport gels that you can carry with you on your marathon day or ultrarun.  I purchase myself a product called CrampFix and once I will try it I will create a review article related to it.

The final category is the category that some athletes cramp more and some less.  If you are in the athlete category that you get cramps even if you do all perfectly, the only thing remain for you to do is that you can buy a commercial product to carry with you and try it once you start feeling the cramp is coming. 

How to prevent cramps or avoid cramps while running?

Why do you get cramps while running?

Sometimes you cannot prevent from cramping but as mentioned above you can try a commercial sport product that can assist you to eliminate the cramp. 

Although cramps are happening from muscle fatigue this means your body is telling you to stop pushing since you are going to hurt yourself with an injury. Although body start to shut down much more earlier to what can really cope but in any-case an athlete should not ignore the signals that its body is sending.

Finally and most important is that once you identify that muscle fatigue is the reason that you cramp, focus on your specific running muscles strengthening!!!

why do i get calf cramps when i run?

A common sports related cramp especially for the beginner runner are the calf cramps. That usually happens while they decide to run some distance longer than their muscles can already cope.  As mentioned above is something unique for each athlete and each runner should experiment what is causing his cramps.  On your next race give close attention to your body and try to understand; did you push really hard , is your dehydration strategy wrong? is it your poor muscle strengthening condition or you believe you did a perfect strategy and still you get cramps.

Understanding your body is the key to manage those running cramps that may destroy your race day even you had a perfect training cycle preparation.

**Above I am clearly describe my personal opinion and definitely is not a professional advice and you must always seek advice from your personal doctor and medical professionals before you consume any commercial sport gels or pickle juice while you are training.

Tassos Agathangelou
Tassos Agathangelou
Tassos Agathangelou is a certified personal trainer of NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine). Tassos is a Marathoner and a Running Enthusiast from Cyprus that is a enjoying the sport of running by traveling the world and participating on marathon races. Tassos is the creator of the lifestyle program TWP365 (train with purpose 365 days) – a life changing program that can drive anybody to accomplish their goals with passion and enthusiasm.


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