> I have just started a rigid training regimen for my swimming with the
> triathlon club here at the U. of Kansas. The reason for me doing so was
> that I enjoyed swimming a lot and went to the pool often, but just lacked
> some discipline to really give myself a good workout. I usually only
> swam 25-30 minutes and 750-1250 yards.
> Last night was my first workout with the club, I swam about 2100 yards over
> close to an hour period. Aerobically, I handled it pretty well, but I
> experienced some major leg cramps in my feet and calves close to the end of
> the workout.
> I assume that if I continue these workouts, my experiences with cramps should
> diminish as I get stronger, but I was just wondering if there's anything I
> can do ahead of time with my diet or stretching to help prevent the cramps,
> and a good way to deal with them in the pool once I get them. 12 hours later,
> my legs are still a little sore in the shins. Should I just take a pain
> reliever and tolerate it?
> Thanks for any suggestions.
I have been trying to post a reply for a while. A reluctant mainframe has not
allowed me to do so, so far.
Shan, it sounds like you are suffering from exactly what used to be a very big
problem for me. I used to get severe arch cramps in both feet, especially
While the suggestions on dehydration and the like are good, I believe the
problem lies in excessive pointing of toes. Are your feet floppy and relaxed
and laying flat so that they do not drag in the water? That is, are the tops
of your feet parallel to the water surface, or pointing straight down?
What is happening is that you are HOLDING your feet in a pointed position.
While the pointing is correct, the holding is not (IMHO). You need to stretch
your SHIN muscles carefully, relax your feet when kicking, and perhaps work on
your positioning in the water.
I will expand a bit, but there is quite a bit to this.
Stretching - your shins pull your toes toward the front of your leg. If this
muscles is tight, the foot will stay bent, and cause drag when swimming. I
feel running and cycling tighten this muscle up. Anyway, there are two ways to
stretch this guy out. First, kick with fins. I use Zoomers now, and kick
about 300-900 yds per workout. Build distance slowly, and ramp up about 100
yds or so per workout per week. Fins put a lot of load on the shin muscles,
and if they are tight you can suffer what I did (swimmer's shin splints, for
lack of a better term). The action of the fin and water will stretch those
babies out. Second, use a swimmer's shin stretch. Kneel down, with your knees
bent so that you lower leg is bent underneath the upper leg. The top of your
foot all the way to your knee should be on the ground. That is, your hamstring
should be against your calf. Your foot will probably not lie flat, and you'll
feel the tightness. Use your hands to support your weight, and gradually allow
your weight to press down and stretch the shin. Doing this on a pad helps.
Relax - kick in the air sitting down or whereever, and keep your foot loose.
It should flop around freely. This is what it should do in the water, just
like a flipper. A well stretched and relaxed foot will act like a flipper,
providing lift and propulsion, etc. Keep it tight, and the cramps will follow.
Positioning - you may not be well positioned in the water, and are kicking
extra to compensate. Make sure your hips do not waddle side to side, and that
your body is streamlined in the water. Your swim group should be able to help
with this better than I can with e-mail.
I have had all of these "swimmers woes", and by a bit of research found these
things to help me. Hope they help you as well.