Cramping

Cramping

Post by John Doy » Sat, 03 Sep 1994 06:48:53


I'm a 40 yr old relative newcomer to triathlons and have been having problems
with cramping, particularly in my calves.  Cramping is often the major limiting
factor in a race for me.  Does anyone know what mechanisms might be responsible
for this and what I can do, in addition to getting fitter and learning another
stroke, to help alleviate them?

My (physician) girlfriend's initial guess is that the *** vessels in my
(fairly unused) legs are constricting during the swim and combined with my poor
ankle flexibility (many many sprains...) cause my feet and calves to cramp.  I
also seem to have fairly rapid intestinal transit times, so I may be having
some problems with electrolyte balances.  She's going to check the medical
literature on all of this, but there seems to be lots of expertise here, so I
thought I'd ask.  I don't know what information might be relevent, so I'll give
everything I think might be relevent below.

Thanks for any help.

Details:

For example, I did the Santa Barbara Triathlon last Saturday (1m swim, 34m
bike, 10m run), which was my first non-sprint triathlon.  I had cramps so bad
near the end of the swim that if I hadn't had a wetsuit on I would have been in
really serious trouble.  The cramps started in my feet and calves, which I
tried to shake out, and then progressed to all parts of my legs.  I don't
kick much, and was mostly moving my legs to try to get them to stop cramping.

I stopped and floated alot and managed to get to shore in about 30 minutes (the
last 3-4 were pretty grim) and get my legs working again.  The bike route was
very technical (lots of ambulances around picking up crashed cyclists) so I was
happy taking it easy and recovered enough on the bike that I was able to
(barely) finish the run.  I felt pretty fresh throughout, but my legs were
constantly cramping.  I managed to win my age group against a very weak field,
but I was only 21st overall with a 3:16.

I'm planning to do several (presumably) more competitive races in the next few
months at 1K/30K/8K type distances and want to minimize the damage done by the
swim.  I'm a poor swimmer but have a fairly strong upper body and basically
muscle through the water.  I'm working to improve my swimming, but would like
to find additional ways to alleviate the cramping.  Overall, I'm reasonably fit
(I did a 54:38 40K time trial at USCF districts in May, and could maybe knock a
minute or two off that now).  I'm having less trouble with cramps in cycling
and running, but the swimming is still terrible.  As long as I stick to very
short races, I'm not too bad, but a 1K swim is a problem.

More background:
I'm 6'1", 170 lbs. and dropping (from 185 last year).  I'm a Caltech professor
with tenure, so I have enough time to train :-).  
I started running track about 5 years ago as I stopped basketball, soccer,
powerlifting, etc. due to injuries.  I started cycling fairly seriously last
year and added swimming this year, and have been competing in short local
(SoCal) triathlons.  I had frequent calf cramps when I began doing track
workouts, but they eventually became less serious.  I again had cramping as I
started biking more, but that has also become somewhat less of a problem.  I
eat pretty well, don't overtrain, drink lots of fluids, etc.

 
 
 

Cramping

Post by David Barre » Sat, 03 Sep 1994 09:40:31

Quote:

> I'm a 40 yr old relative newcomer to triathlons and have been having problems
> with cramping, particularly in my calves.  Cramping is often the major limiting
> factor in a race for me.  Does anyone know what mechanisms might be responsible
> for this and what I can do, in addition to getting fitter and learning another
> stroke, to help alleviate them?

> My (physician) girlfriend's initial guess is that the *** vessels in my
> (fairly unused) legs are constricting during the swim and combined with my poor
> ankle flexibility (many many sprains...) cause my feet and calves to cramp.  I
> also seem to have fairly rapid intestinal transit times, so I may be having
> some problems with electrolyte balances.  She's going to check the medical
> literature on all of this, but there seems to be lots of expertise here, so I
> thought I'd ask.  I don't know what information might be relevent, so I'll give
> everything I think might be relevent below.

> Thanks for any help.

> Details:

        John,
                Just off the top of my head, I think there's I good
        chance that your spending to much time above your AT heart rate.

                Do you monitor your heart rate?  If so, what heart rate
        are you training\racing at?  Also, do you get cramps when training?
        Have your heard\taken a Canconi (sp?) test for each of 3 tri-execises?

                Ask around about these concepts, if you need more info post to
        this group.

                Hope this helps,
                --Dave

 
 
 

Cramping

Post by Pat Br » Sun, 04 Sep 1994 01:15:54


Quote:

> I'm a 40 yr old relative newcomer to triathlons and have been having problems
> with cramping, particularly in my calves
<snip>
> Details:

> near the end of the swim that if I hadn't had a wetsuit on I would have been in
> really serious trouble.  The cramps started in my feet and calves...

You need to try to build in some flexibility/strength in your feet/ankles.
Your cramping is more common than you probably realize.  Take heart with a
few drills, you'll be cramp free in no-time.

You can most effectively do this by kicking (hard!) with fins and a
kickboard-- prone position.  In the supine (back), don't use a board.  Try
the following set: flutter kick 50 w/ fins and board on front hard, kick 50
w/fins on back hard (near AT), 100 recovery swim w/o fins at a moderate
pace.  The preceding 200 should be continuous.  Do a set of 5 after a good
warmup.  

You can also do dryland stretching (point your toes, sit on your feet
etc.), but I have found these to be less effective and more prone to giving
injury.

Also, make sure you are properly hydrated before racing!

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