The real cause of severe leg cramps is bound to be on the mind of every long distance runner
Or anyone else who works his legs over a long period
I have just been reading about a marathon runner who hit “the wall” after 20 miles into the run.
“The wall” is reached when the runner’s reserves are used up and he finds himself without sufficient energy to continue.
Many runners describe it as if they have “hit a wall”. Their legs cramp and stiffen and just won’t carry on.
I must admit that being able to complete the distance was my main concern whenever I ran marathon races in England. (photo credit)
How To Complete The Distance
I believe that if we put in sufficient training to prepare our bodies, and we make sure we eat and drink the correct components then, yes, we should be able to complete the distance.
I must admit that I used to enjoy the three or four days previous to a marathon when I would “carbohydrate load” to make sure I had sufficient energy stored to take me the full distance.
I Couldn’t Help But Enjoy These
The carbohydrates (sugars and starches that provide energy) I particularly enjoyed eating were biscuits, cakes, pizzas and white pasta. However, there are many simple carbohydrates such as bananas, beans, lentils and nuts which I could have used instead.
The trouble with running a long distance event like the marathon is that the average person’s body can only store sufficient energy (glycogen) to keep him going for about 18 to 20 miles of running.
Once this has been used up, the body then looks to stored fat for its energy supply – an energy source which cannot be used as easily as glycogen.
Hence the feeling of suddenly hitting the wall.
Another Way To Guard Against Severe Leg Cramps
An acceptable way to beat “the wall” is to eat energy gels whilst actually running the marathon.
The gels will contain carbohydrates as well as sodium, potassium and other constituents. Even though carbohydrates are necessary, we also need minerals such as sodium and potassium.
The Severe Leg Cramps Wouldn’t Stop
The marathon runner I had been reading about and had hit the wall experienced severe leg cramps at the 20 mile mark.
She says that every half a mile for the remainder of the run, her quadriceps and hamstrings would seize up and spasm, making her stop. She says that her quads would go into a cramp if she tried to straighten a leg. And her hamstrings would cramp if she tried to bend her leg. To read the full article go to Muscle Cramps.
But just What Is It That Causes Leg Cramps?
One Of The Major Causes Of Leg Cramps
One of the major causes of cramp when exercising is the lack of sodium.
And because sweat contains sodium, chloride and potassium, it is easy to see that a sweating person will soon “run out” of sodium.
In fact, tests carried out at the University of Oklahoma found that runners who cramped often, tended to lose five times more sweat than “normal sweating” athletes.
Another factor contributing to severe leg cramps is the amount of magnesium in the body. Magnesium is necessary for allowing a muscle to relax. “No magnesium – No relax”.
What To Do About Preventing Severe Leg Cramps
If you sweat a lot and suffer from severe leg cramps it would be worth considering salting your food a few days before the event (be sure to check with your doctor if you have any health issues). And if you are getting enough sodium, the next thing to check is that you are getting enough fluids and electrolytes.
Your needs are Carbohydrates, Sodium, Potassium and Magnesium. More information is given in What You Need To Know About Leg Cramps At Night
If you have suffered severe leg cramps how have you dealt with them?