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How to Prevent and Treat Exercise-Related Cramps

How to Treat and Prevent Cramps While You Exercise

Cramps throughout the body can, at their least painful, distract you from your workout and at their worst can keep you from finishing a workout. While they are normally associated with vigorous exercise, they are common in every type of exercise because you may be twisting your body or otherwise overexerting yourself. I recently learned that the hard way, after spending a lot more time than I should have in Child's Pose during yoga class when my toes wouldn't stop cramping! Whether they happen in your feet or on your side, here are some tips on how to prevent and deal with those annoying cramps.

Side stitch
Cause: Many experts believe that side cramps are caused by the pulling of the ligament that attaches your liver to your diaphragm. This can happen when you breath too vigorously while you run. Runners who exhale when their right foot hits the ground, for example, are more likely to experience muscle cramps than those who don't. Experts also believe that shallow breathing can lead to a higher frequency of side cramps.
Prevention: Warming up is key to preventing these painful cramps, so start with walking or slow jogging before you start any intensive cardio. Also, try not to run while full since that may also pull the ligament that is attached to your diaphragm. If you get a stitch on your side, a side stretch using an exercise ball may give you enough support and stretch to the area to make you feel better.

Toe or foot cramps
Cause: Foot cramps may be caused from too-constricting shoes, depletion of nutrients like electrolytes or water in your body, or just the position that you're putting your toes into while you exercise.
Prevention. Massaging the bottoms of your feet every few days by rolling them on top of a tennis ball will help keep your muscles and ligaments stretched. Also, remember to drink plenty of fluids regularly. If you get a cramp while exercising, stopping and massaging your feet or moving into a position that stretches them (like Downward Dog) can help alleviate pain.

Stomach cramps
Cause: Stomach or intestinal pain may be caused by vigorous breathing or exercising or dehydration and other forms of nutrient deficiency.
Prevention: If you're running a race or otherwise exerting yourself with a hard workout and find yourself getting abdominal cramps, try changing your pre-workout diet to something with higher carbs. If you find yourself getting abdominal cramps a lot, try incorporating stretches that target your torso (simple yoga twists may help) to help you feel better.

Leg cramps.
Cause: Leg cramps are one of the most common types of exercise-related cramp, and like other types, can happen if you are dehydrated or if you've overexerted yourself.
Prevention: Stretching your leg muscles after you've warmed up or after you've completed a circuit will help keep your leg muscles happy. Calves are a very common place to experience the dreaded cramps. If you notice you get them often, find a wall, curb, or resistance band and do some calf stretches to keep them loose.

Image Source: Thinkstock
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