Muscle cramps are a fairly common occurrence for cyclists and we would be willing to wager that many of the people who are reading this article will have experienced them either during or after they have enjoyed a good cycling session.
They are an unpleasant experience at the best of times, so understanding why they occur and what you can do about them may help to make your cycling experience all the more enjoyable.
Why Do Muscle Cramps Occur?
There is a lot of speculation as to why Exercise Associated Muscle Cramps (EAMC) occur, but no definitive answer. However, there are a few common issues that are often pointed towards.
Many bicycle manufacturers and cycling technicians will tell you that one of the reasons such cramps could occur is that your saddle is a little too high for the bike. This leads to the rider overextending their legs when they are riding, which in turn puts undue strain on the muscles they are using and causes them to cramp up. Happily, assuming you visit a professional fitter, this is a fairly simple issue to remedy and one that you can look into without too much undue cost.
There are also a number of nutritional experts who will claim that, all other things being perfect, that a lack of magnesium and other electrolytes in your diet could be to blame if you are still experiencing cramps. A lot of sports drinks make a big deal about including electrolytes, so there is something of an industry built around the research, but it does seem to have some merit to it. As such, it is probably a good idea to keep a decent sports drink handy whenever you go out on a ride and to adjust your diet a little to make sure you are getting enough magnesium.
Many people have had great success with taking salt tablets in order to solve this problem, myself included. If you are continuously cramping it is well worth the shot.
Lastly, the muscles are just purely exhausted. They are cramping in protest of doing any more work, a way of protecting the body. Perhaps you increased volume, intensity or duration more than usual and muscles are starting to cramp.
What Can I Do To Fix Muscle Cramping?
Based on the above, altering your seat height and your diet a little should help along with being adequately prepared for the ride ahead. There are a few other tips that you should follow that will also help:
Tip #1 – Stretch to Improve Muscle Cramping
Stretching is one of the most important, yet under-utilized, aspects of any exercise regimen. Not stretching can cause damage to your muscles if you try to push too hard without loosening up. Your muscles continue to contract and contract with no relief. You eventually become a tight ball of muscle waiting to cramp up.
Take the time to do a warm down as it is just as important as the warm up, take a little time to do a few leg stretches when you finish your ride.
Tip #2 – Keeping Hydrated Improves Muscle Cramping
Having a sports drink that is rich in electrolytes is usually a good start, but there is nothing wrong with just taking a bottle of water along as well. Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps, so be sure to keep a bottle of water handy so that you can take a few swigs whenever you start to feel a little thirsty.
Tip #3 – Build up Volume, Intensity and Duration Slowly
Want to avoid cramping? Don’t push it in to the red all the time. Make sure that you slowly build up to your cycling goals. Do not increase volume, intensity or duration more than 10% per week.
There is a lot of speculation out there, ultimately you know your body best. Find out which one of these works for you or perhaps it is a combination of all. Either way get out there and enjoy some cycling cramp free.