Five Ways to Beat Cramp

As many as 39 per cent of distance runners may experience a cramp in their calves, hamstrings or quadriceps before they finish a race. While many people blame dehydration, Kevin Miller, an exercise scientist at North Dakota State University, US, says exhaustion is usually the culprit. Here's how to fix (and even prevent) spasms in your tired legs.

Prevent a Cramp

Try these jumping and hopping drills twice a week:

Two-way hops

Stand on your right leg. Hop forward and land on your left leg. Then hop back to the start position and land on your right leg. Jump sideways, landing on your left leg, and jump back to the start, landing on your right. Do three more sets, leading with alternate legs.

Box jump plus hop

Stand on a low box or a step about 30cm high. Jump off the box and land on both feet as lightly as you can. Then immediately jump forward with both feet. Step back on to the box. Do 10 reps to start with, working
up to 25.

Stop a Cramp

If you experience a spasm, move to the side of the road and do the following stretches:

Calf stretch

Step forward with your non-cramping leg. With the foot of your other leg flat on the ground, slowly transfer your weight on to your front leg until you feel the stretch in your cramping calf. Hold for 20 seconds. Release and repeat.

Quad stretch

Grab the foot of your cramping leg and pull it back and up towards your buttocks until you feel a stretch in your quad. Keep your other leg straight and your thighs together. Hold for 20 seconds. Release and repeat.

Weird Science

Here's a wacky fix...

Study subjects who drank pickle juice stopped cramping faster than those who drank water. "The salt or vinegar may stimulate taste buds, sending a signal to the brain telling the cramping muscle to relax," says Kevin Miller.