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What are Cramps and how can you Avoid Them?

Whether you’re taking part in a virtual marathon race or going for a quick jog, cramps can be an issue for many runners. Take a look at ACE Races guide to cramps when running, and how to avoid them!

What are Cramps?

Your body may experience cramps when running for several reasons. You may get muscle cramps in your legs, runner's cramps or a side stitch which is abdominal pain, or stomach cramps. Although there is no one answer for avoiding cramps when running, experts have provided many recommendations to help reduce the risk and keep you feeling comfortable, pain-free and active.

7 Ways to Avoid Cramps When Running

Always Warm Up

A runner’s cramp or side stitch typically occurs right below the rib cage and can feel like a sharp pain. Side cramps are not related to your digestive system, and the actual cause remains unknown, although it may be related to blood flow to the liver or spasms in the diaphragm. The best way to prevent a side cramp or stitch is to always warm up before running and allow your body to stretch ligaments correctly and accommodate quicker breathing.

If you experience a side stitch cramp when running, remember to slow your pace, take some deep breaths and stop to stretch for a few minutes.

Stay Hydrated

You may think drinking fluids during a run could cause cramping, but actually, it's important to keep sipping and stay hydrated as dehydration can intensify cramps and stomach pain when running. Digestion can be negatively affected during intense exercise due to reduced blood flow, and these digestion issues combined with dehydration can lead to severe cramping, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Set an alarm to remind you to stay hydrated in the days before a running session or race, and remember to drink fluids during your run.

Replenish your Electrolyte Balance

Electrolytes are important for a range of body functions and are vital as part of a runner's diet. If you do not consume enough electrolytes, such as potassium, sodium, calcium, chloride, and magnesium, then you may experience muscle weakness, excessive contraction and muscle cramps.

Remember to replenish electrolytes lost during exercise and maintain a good balance by eating a diet rich in the above nutrients, like pickles, bananas, kale and yoghurt.

Fix Your Running Posture

As well as increasing the risk of injury, poor posture, particularly after a long run, can also cause cramps. Slouching can alter the position of your glutes resulting in your hamstrings being overworked and stretched, and your body making overstrides. A reduced hip extension can also put extra strain on your quads and calf muscles, causing them to fail and cramp.

Create a Fuelling Strategy

When training for long-distance races and running events, it’s just as important to train your gut as it is your muscles. If your stomach isn’t used to sports drinks and gels for fuel during a race, then this could lead to severe cramps. It’s important to create a fuelling strategy and put it into practice during your training. This is also the best way to assess what sports nutrition, such as gels, sports drinks or bars, suit your body best.

It’s also important to remember not to over-fuel, and try to gradually increase your intake so that your stomach can develop a tolerance and recognise how to process the fuel when running.

Reduce Your Caffeine Intake

Although caffeine can help to improve your endurance and running performance, it can cause stomach cramps for some people. These pains can also worsen due to nerves and the motion of running. If you’re struggling to find the cause of your cramps when running, it may be worth skipping your pre-run coffee to see if your stomach cramps lessen.

Keep Track of Your Diet

If you’re continually experiencing cramps when running, it may be a good idea to keep track of your diet and observe how your intake affects your performance. The best way to learn about the effect certain foods have on your body is to keep a log of what you eat and drink for a week, as well as noting how long before a run you eat and how your stomach or muscles feel.

More severe stomach cramps can often indicate a medical condition such as a food sensitivity or intolerance. It’s best to visit your doctor to rule out any medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, or any digestive complications.

Enter Virtual Race Events with ACE Races

Now you’re armed with steps to avoid running cramps, why not challenge yourself further and enter a virtual race event with ACE Races. Our virtual runs can be completed anytime, anywhere! So you can create your own routine, reach your fitness goals and stay motivated with the support of our virtual running community.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned marathon runner, our virtual races are a great way to stay active, and you’ll even receive a custom-made and collectable medal for your efforts!

Browse our range of virtual 5k races, virtual 10k races, virtual half-marathon races or virtual marathon races and discover how to enter our virtual races today!