If you’ve been moving a little bit more as temperatures have risen, you may be feeling it more ways than one.
Muscle cramps are common at the beginning of an exercise routine, particularly if the increased workload is a shock. But a long layoff isn’t the only potential cause for cramping. Age, hydration, and nutrition can all play a factor.
Muscles are made up of bundles of fibers that expand and contract. When they flex or contract, they get smaller and tighter. When they expand or stretch, they loosen up.
For example, when you take a step, the muscles in your calf contract when you push off the ground through the balls or your feet and expand when the foot is elevated. It then touches down again at the heel.
Cramps are sudden involuntary contractions of muscles. They often occur in the calf and can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. They can be mild or painful and even occur in the middle of the night while asleep.
Most cramps will go away on their own in a few minutes, but you may be able to get faster relief by gently rubbing the area or stretching it out. Personally, I find that stretching works quite well.
Applying a heating pad or warm washcloth can also help relieve a cramp.
But the best treatment may be finding ways to prevent cramps. Drinking plenty of fluids before exercise and eating a diet rich in magnesium and potassium can reduce the risk of cramps.
Warming up can also help. Walking slowly before picking up the pace can help your muscles get loose and adjust. Further, stretching after exercise and before bed can help muscles stay relaxed.
Don’t let cramps keep you from getting valuable activity. Take steps to care for your muscles so you can exercise pain-free.