How to Prevent Leg Cramps While Swimming: Complete Guide
Have you ever suffered from leg cramps while swimming?
If you have then you know that it is a nasty and very painful process that you want to avoid at all times
The other day I was swimming in the pool and I experienced the cramps on my leg
It was very painful and left me wondering how to prevent leg cramps while swimming
This led me down the path of researching and trying to come up different ways on how to prevent this from ever happening
So in this article, I will be explaining the process of while this happens and what you can do to ensure that it never happens again.
What is a muscle cramp?
According to Mayo Clinic, a muscle cramp is a sudden and involuntary contraction of one or more of your muscles.
Though generally harmless, a muscle cramp can make it impossible for you to make use of the affected muscle for a period of time.
Long periods of exercise or physical labor, especially in hot water can lead to muscle cramps
Also there are certain medications and treatments which may cause muscle cramps
Basically muscle cramps can be treated at home with self care measures.
What causes swimmers to cramp up?
There are a number of reasons why swimmers can experience muscle cramps.
Here are some of them
This is probably the most common reason why most swimmers experience cramps
Dehydration or lack of enough fluids in the body systems is a major cause of cramps
This is the reason why most coaches are always hounding their students to make sure they take in enough fluids and stay hydrated.
And this is for very good reason because being dehydrated even by a couple percentage points to lead to a swift decline in performance as experienced in this case study.
Muscle cramps have been known to happen in situations whereby athletes are using up more water than they are ingesting
If you are a technical person and looking for a more scientific explanation, then check out this article
What this simply means is that athletes who work or engage in intense physical activities in hot and humid conditions are prone to sweat a lot and lose a lot of electrolytes might suffer from muscle cramps
2. Muscle Fatigue
A few days ago, I did a heavy session at the gym.
This involved me carrying max weights and doing some back squats
After doing this, I went for a swim almost immediately. What followed was that my legs were virtually cramping up
After each push off, I could feel the twitching in my quads and hamstring
This prevented me from really going in and having an intense workout
What basically was happening was that my legs after the workout in the gym was firing and contracting
Which is likely the second cause of cramps - that they happen as a result of muscle fatigue.
There have been a lot of studies and researches which show that cramping usually occurs the end of most competitions when the muscles are really weak.
Which if you have noticed or had an experience like the one I mentioned above makes perfect sense
Also It has also been noticed that most people tend to have cramps more often at the beginning of the season after a long layoff or during long stretches of training when you are either not in great shape of fatigued.
How to Prevent Leg Cramps while Swimming
1. Stay Hydrated
While there is no scientific research to prove that cramps are caused by a result of dehydration, it can be deduced that there is a drop in performance when swimmers are not properly hydrated.
So what you want to do is to maintain optimal fluid levels before, during and after swimming.
Here are a few bonus tips to help you do so
Conveniently locate replacement fluids in a sports bottle at the wall of the pool
Make sure your diet includes a healthy portion of magnesium, potassium and calcium. Examples of foods which these can be gotten include leafy greens, dairy and banana
Find and use a good sports drink that compensates for electrolytes deficiency
2. Get in shape and stay fit
Make sure you have a consistent training routine that includes stretching and recovery
This will help you build endurance and increase your body’s ability to adapt to high performance levels.
Including some out of water training will also help strengthen some of your swimming muscles
Make sure you swim a minimum of 3 times weekly
3. Warm up properly before swimming
Start your swim workout with a longer set of continuous full body swimming which helps to loosen and warm up your muscles
Make it a point to perform drills and workouts that are very intense for later after your muscles have warmed up
Gentle stretching on the affected area can also help to soothe the soreness and immediate pain.
What to do when you suffer muscle cramp
Immediately massage and stretch the cramp muscle after removing yourself from the water
For leg and toe cramps, massage the surrounding area and move your toe forward and backward to help release the cramp
Reduce the intensity of your kicking sets and turns
Heat can also help reduce the pain from the cramps. Submerge your leg or the affected area in a hot tub while massaging and stretching the affected area.
Can you drown from a cramp?
Cramps can cause tremendous pain and can cause you to stop your swimming midway
And because they are sudden and usually happen unexpectedly, if it happens while you are swimming far away from the shore or in deep water, it can result in drowning for the unprepared swimmer.
If you start to experience cramps while swimming, this is your body’s way of telling you that something is not right and you need to pay attention
What can you eat to get rid of leg cramps?
Basically you want to eat a lot of foods that have high water content and are rich in magnesium, calcium and electrolytes
Examples of such foods include kale, spinach, broccoli, bananas, sweet potatoes, avocado, beans and lentils, water melon, pickle juice, orange juice, salmon, tomato juice
Can leg cramps be a sign of something serious?
Generally muscle cramps usually disappear on their own and are rarely serious enough to warrant medical care
But to be on the safe side, if you experience any type of cramps for a very long period of time, you want to make sure you visit a doctor for proper examination and care