Understanding Cramps – As many as 39 percent of distance runners may experience a cramp in their calves, hamstrings, or quadriceps before they finish a race. While many people blame dehydration, exhaustion is usually the culprit. There are a number of exercises that can be done to fix and even prevent spasms in tired legs.
Jumping and hopping drills called plyometrics help keep muscle spindles (small nerves in muscles) from tiring. Cramps can occur when these spindles get fatigued. Do these move twice a week after you run to condition the spindles in your legs.
- Two-Way Hops: Stand on your right leg. Hop forward and land on your left leg. Then hop back to the start position and land on your right leg. Then jump sideways, landing on your left leg, and jump back to the start, landing on your right. Do three sets, leading with each leg.
- Box Jump Plus Hop: Stand on a low bench or a step about a foot high. Hop off the bench and land on both feet as lightly as you can. Then immediately hop forward with both feet. Step back onto the bench. Do 10 reps and work up to 25.
Stop a Cramp:
- Calf Stretch: Step forward with your noncramping leg. With your other leg’s foot flat on the ground, slowly transfer your weight onto your front leg until you feel the stretch in your cramping calf. Hold for 20 seconds. Release and repeat.
- Quad Stretch: Grab the foot of your cramping leg and pull it back and up toward your buttocks until you feel a stretch in your quad. Keep your other leg straight and your thighs together. Hold for 20 seconds. Release and repeat.
- Hamstring Stretch: Extend your cramping leg out in front of you with only the heel touching the ground. Squat down slightly and point the toes of your cramping leg up. Hold for 20 seconds.