What are the cramps ?
This Sunday, in the early afternoon, my little weekly bi-session of swimming. It is cold, and there are not many people at the Sceaux swimming pool. Anyway, there are never many people at 1 p.m. The Sceans eat as a family at this time or they leave the church.
I didn’t eat much the night before: a slice of ham, a few green olives and a hazelnut yogurt, my favorite. In the morning, a few cereals, a mango and a coffee.
I have resumed regular physical exercise since the beginning of the year. I missed it terribly. I “triathlete” (at my level) and swimming is an integral part of my return :-). I have always enjoyed swimming. It’s a very tough and austere discipline, in the words of the lifeguard, who doesn’t look like it …
So I left on a quiet session but with not much in the stomach. On the program 2 sets of 40 lengths (crawl / backstroke) separated by 20 lengths crawl beats. 100 effort lengths in all, which corresponds to 2km500. What a splendor! In athletics, it’s a little more than 6 laps. There, it shines less!
You appreciate this discipline especially when you reach the end of your session goal. There, you feel strong and you tend to give everything on the last 2 or 4 lengths. For my part, it is always the last 4 that count. The problem is that we must not forget certain reality. And the most important, I am no longer 20 years old but 45 brooms, with a big stop of fifteen years. It’s not good to fall in love 🙂
The cramp arrived on the penultimate length. Severe, at the right ischio, I clenched my teeth and quickly hung on to the water line. I repatriated my 90 kg by pulling on this water line and came out of the basin on one leg. With a little smile for the lifeguard, without asking her to “unclip” me.
So, a cramp, where does it come from and what treatment?
A cramp is muscle fibers that contract involuntarily and painfully. For the management of cramps, it is necessary to be in a prevention strategy: the good sportsman is one who listens to his sensations and who seeks to understand. The causes of cramps are to be sought:
-on the food side :
Hydration (the muscle is thirsty): did the athlete take care, over a prolonged effort, to drink sugary during this effort? Does the muscle lack “fuel”? When was the last meal? After a difficult training does the sportsman respect an adapted nutritional protocol : meal which follows rich in alkaline foods. Nutrition is not too acidic because an acid muscle cramps much more easily.
-on the training side :
Isn’t the athlete “burnt”? Did he work his land well (endurance, aerobic)? Many athletes work too much at the limit. Even a sprinter must have a huge amount of land. Others, on the contrary, train too much “inside”, and at the slightest need for a sustained effort (resistance type) the thighs explode: the muscle is not used to managing lactic acid. It is necessary to review the training methods while looking for a good balance in the development of the energy sectors.
For athletes, is the stride smooth and unhindered? Is the technical gesture correct and relaxed? Is the cushioning correct, are there no static and / or dynamic podiatric disorders during exercise? Consequently, do certain muscles work in a non-symmetrical way? In which case, they are hard and cramp.
-on the side of the athlete himself :
Is the sportsman serious in recovery after training or competitions? Does he take the time to stretch well? What place for active recovery, venous return? It is obvious that a muscle that has not recovered after an effort will cramp much more easily in the days that follow.
Is the athlete stressed? If one is tense in the mind, one is tense in the muscles and therefore one cramps more easily. Is sleep restorative? This is an essential and too neglected aspect. A muscle that has not recovered enough will of course cramp much more easily.
Does the athlete know how to breathe in harmony with the effort? For the muscle to use lipid and carbohydrate fuel for a long time, oxygen must be present, supplied by respiration, then exchanged in the lung, then transported in the blood thanks, among other things, to iron. If the oxygen decreases, lactic acid is produced and the cramp arrives.
Look for anemia and / or iron deficiency (iron helps transport oxygen). Perform a blood test which will also include a dosage of mineral salts. Possibly a urinalysis to see if they are not too acidic.
Does the athlete follow a treatment that could promote cramps? In particular anti-cholesterols, mainly statins. But also certain molecules used in asthma such as Formoterol. Also the prescription of certain antibiotics in particular quinones.
The athlete’s bronchi do not spasm during exercise (= exercise-induced asthma, which is far from rare, you have to think about it and therefore look for it by a spirometry at rest and during exercise).
Finally, it is only as a last point that we will discuss the need for medical treatment for cramps, as you have understood, this approach only happens after the above reflection.
Good with regard to my cramps of yesterday, the origin is quickly found: not much in the stomach, poorly hydrated and a light sleep. And then, I rediscover the sustained effort, and that, I must not forget it!