Monday, July 7, 2014

Calf Cramps & Spin Class

What are cramps?

“Cramps are muscle pains or spasms most often in the abdomen, arms, or legs that may occur in association with strenuous activity.” (American College of Sports Medicine)

Why do I get calf cramps during spin class?

Calves are the most common location for cramps in spinners and long distance cyclists.  Cramps can be caused by numerous factors like dehydration, sweating, and fatigued muscles.  As dehydration levels increase, aerobic performance suffers.  Why?  Because when we sweat, we lose important nutrients.  Sodium and electrolytes replacement is critical to maintaining athletic performance.

Did you know?  Your muscles are more prone to cramping in higher temperatures.

If you are not used to working out in the heat, your body will need to get acclimated to the environment.  Many riders in the Northeast and other areas of the country will experience seasonal acclimation every year in late spring/early summer.

Calf cramping during spin class can also be from pointing your toes.  We are taught in spinning to pedal with a flat foot for efficiency and power.  Pointed toes will cause the calf muscles to shorten and constant shortening can lead to cramping.

You are also more prone to cramping if you are pushing yourself to your physical limits.  Think about it.  Not only are you profusely sweating but when your muscles start to fatigue or when you sprint on the bike, you start lose your form.  Spinners are advised to sprint with a good amount of tension on the bike to avoid going out of control and going too fast.  As you lose your form, one of the first things to happen is pointing your toes… which leads to shortening of the calf muscle… which leads to cramping!  Not fun!

What do I do if I get a cramp during spin class?

Slowly stop pedaling and administer fluids, especially fluids with electrolytes.  You can try to massage the cramping muscles and make sure to stretch.  Static stretching will help so you don’t wake up too sore and stiff the next morning!

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