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You Asked: Charley Horses Caused by Cardio?

You're asking, and I'm answering . . .


Hey Fit!
For the past few weeks I have been experiencing incredibly painful Charley Horses in my sleep once or twice a week. I have never endured this kind of cramping before, and it is beginning to interrupt my sleep schedule, not to mention my workout schedule. I do at least an hour of cardio every day (usually on the elliptical or treadmill) and I'm not sure if I should stop or if the Charley Horses are completely unrelated! What do you think?
Charley Horse Girl

I was plagued by Charley Horses when I was pregnant, so I can totally relate to how disruptive they can be. To see my suggestions on dealing with these nocturnal cramps, just read more.

Many people are plagued by nighttime cramps in their calves, but a single cause for Charley Horses has yet to be discovered. There are many theories as to why they happen, so there are also many steps you can take to prevent them.

A Charley Horse could be caused by overexertion of the calf muscles, structural disorders like flat feet, prolonged standing on concrete, prolonged sitting, inappropriate leg positions while sedentary (another reason why not to cross your legs), or dehydration.

From the sounds of it, your daily cardio could be contributing for two reasons: overexertion and dehydration. When using the elliptical, make sure to keep your heels down to prevent your calves from overworking. Focus on the back of your leg doing the majority of the work. If you're a toe runner, you might want to aim to strike closer to your mid-sole than your toes when working on the treadmill, which could lessen the amount of stress you're putting on your calves. Regardless of how you run, after any form of cardio you need to spend a serious amount of time stretching your calves. Here are some calf stretches you should try.

After working out, make sure to replenish all the fluids that you have lost. Low blood levels of the minerals potassium, sodium, calcium, or magnesium caused by dehydration can lead to cramping. Many sports drinks contain these important electrolytes; so try sipping a sports drink while your exercising, as well as after.

If you have flat feet, I would seriously consider seeing a podiatrist to have orthotics (customized shoe inserts) made for your sneakers. Keeping your foot properly supported will help avoid overtaxing your calf muscles when working out.

Lastly, try keeping your blanket and sheets loose at the foot of your bed since the tight sheets can force the muscles of the foot and calf to engage and then cramp.

Sure do hope this helps.

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