Cramps

1 of the most dreaded things to a cyclist is getting CRAMPS: it sucks, and once they start there is usually not much you can do during one.

Just what is going on when you get a cramp? The exact cause of muscle cramps is still unknown, but the theories most commonly cited include:

* Altered neuromuscular control
* Dehydration
* Electrolyte depletion
* Poor conditioning
* Muscle fatigue – doing more than usual at a certain activity
* Doing a new activity

But first, let’s try to avoid them!
To aid in avoiding cramps I will add a little sea salt the day before and the day of an event.
Because I have experienced some leg cramping before on fast rides before, I will also take some electrolytes the day of an event. If the ride is going to be more than 4 hours, I will usually take extra electrolytes during the ride.

When I feel those first little twinges, of an upcoming cramp, I have ‘delayed’ them by pouring water on the area that I feel the cramps starting. Maybe it is a placebo effect, but it seems to help some.

During a cramp there isn’t much you can do other than avoid making it worse and try to stretch out the cramping muscle. Ask anyone that has had them before and it sucks!
Once I start cramping, it is usually a sign that the body is not getting enough nutrients and I will try to get in more calories quick!

Cramps usually go away on their own without treatment, but these tips appear to help speed the relaxing of the muscle:
* Stop the activity that caused the cramp (as if you have a choice).
* Gently stretch and massage the cramping muscle.
* Hold the joint in a stretched position until the cramp stops.

After cramping I try to stretch as much as possible before getting in the car, then do more flexibility work by using a foam roller once I get home. The compression will help loosen the tight muscles allowing more blood flow and nutrients to reach the muscles and flush out toxins that are by-products of the activity.

Keep cool this summer

While exercising in the summer months can be great, hydration can be the key to keeping it a great experience. Hydration is something that even experienced riders can make mistakes and mis-calculations on.

Usually I will try to make the best preparations possible, as soon as possible. So if I make plans the day before or even the day of an event, I will try to hydrate more as soon as possible. Or at least try get in extra fluids.

As always, don’t try something new on the day of a race or big event. Always try it in training first, and then another time, as close as possible to race pace. Somethings that sit easily on the stomach with the heart rate around 150, may NOT sit well when the Heart Rate is around 170.

1 of my most ‘unbelievable’ tips is to put chapstick over your eyebrows! I do this from a slightly high point in the center, and then lower until I get past the eyes. The chapstick will cause a lot of the sweat to divert from coming directly down into the eyes, to following the chapstick past the sides of the eyes. It won’t stop all the sweat, but the amount of sweat in your eyes will be much reduced.

While your out riding and getting close to running out of fluids, it is best to go ahead and finish off what you have rather than sip on the last little bit of it. Getting the fluids into you stomach is better (for your body) than sipping and attempting to make it last longer – which doesn’t keep you hydrated.

If you do find a spicket or a creek, pouring water over your head will help with the evaporation process that allows your body to stay cooler. If you think that you will be out long, either keep money for a store stop or a water filter/iodine tablets for purifying water from streams.

I have been out on long rides in Pisgah and in North Ga., which have many creek crossings, and been saved by someone else that had iodine tablets, and another time by someone that had a water filter with them! Personally I don’t like the iodine flavor, so I think I’m going to go the portable water filter route.

any recommendations?