Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Experimenting on Myself: Stop the Cramping!

I just found this video about the two causes of muscle cramping on the triathlete magazine website. I can't figure out how to imbed the darn thing (oy I need to increase my html skillz) so here is the link:

Why are my muscles cramping?

For those of you who have followed my short race history, muscle cramping was an issue for me last season in my half iron distance race. Besides that experience, in which I cramped up on both the swim and the run, I have only really had serious cramping issues while swimming. (Of course, the scariest time to get a cramp is out in the deep part of open water...). I've actually had cramping while swimming since I was a kid and have frequently had issues with cramping in the arches of my feet. If I don't stop and fix those cramps, they tend to creep up my leg and attack my lower leg muscles. If I STILL swim through (because for instance I am in the middle of a race with no way or desire to stop) then they sometimes go all the way up to my quads. This is basically debilitating.

The video talks about muscle cramping due to muscle weakness and/or tightness and muscle cramping due to nutrition. I think I might have to work on both of theses areas. I know that the problems I have had in the past with my arch probably have something to do with tightness and weakness in my foot. I have started using a lacrosse ball on my arches and feet, as recommended by the very wonderful massage therapist I saw last week (gift certificate from Erin and my friend Matt for xmas that I just cashed in on. AMAZING! Nicole Allen Massage in Bethesda. GO!)

Anyway, I have also started including electrolyte tablets (Nuun) in my water while I swim in an effort to make sure my salt/electrolyte levels stay balanced. I'm trying to be more diligent about my electrolyte intake in general as well, since I know it may have been a serious factor in my race last season that ended with paralyzing cramping and a hospital visit. So, I guess I am experimenting on myself, as we triathletes are known to do. This of course isn't following a very sound scientific method, given that I am altering two variables at once (muscle/tendon tightness and electrolyte intake) and won't definitively be able to say which change made a difference, but all I really want is a change. I don't mind continuing to do both things forever if it means the cramping is less of an issue.

Oh yeah, training? Going pretty well. I've now run and cycled with my coach and will be swimming with him for the first time this week. I am really excited to hear what he has to say about my swimming, given that it is my favorite, and arguably my strongest, of the three disciplines. I just hope he doesn't tell me that I am doing it all wrong and have to rebuild my swimming from the ground up. That would be a serious ego blow.

Last week he told me that my cycling fitness was in need of some work. This wasn't actually a surprise, but the reality check was a bit jarring. Good for me, but still jarring. He's now upping the number of rides I do a week to 5 instead of 3 (Hence that little 35 minute ride yesterday. Drills on the trainer to increase my strength. Real ride today...). Woo!! Lucky me, more saddle sores!! Time to stock up on HooHa Ride Glide!!

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