Leg cramps are a nasty experience for anyone, let alone a marathon runner. If anything, these cramps are just a hassle to experience but are not necessarily too hard to get rid of. So how exactly can one beat leg cramps on a marathon?
Before you set your sights on running a marathon, there are key things to prepare besides your mental fortitude. Preparation is key in ensuring that the body will not experience leg cramps during the marathon.
Firstly, make sure that you do not run the next marathon after a week. It takes three weeks for the muscles to recover. Focus on resting as much as possible before the marathon.
Proper nutrition is important so that the body can perform at its peak. Carbohydrates will help sustain you with the energy needed during the race. Water is also one main thing that you should take note of. Make sure that you are well hydrated before, during, and after.
Strength training can also help your body be at its top form. Before a marathon, make sure to plan workout sessions that can help target areas in your body that you should strengthen. These include the legs, back, and core. Learn to do interval training to build up muscle strength, and practice yoga to help with your breathing.
Don’t forget to prepare your gear before a marathon. Since marathons are long and draining, knowing what to wear and what to prepare are key in making sure that you are as comfortable as you can get during the marathon. Running gear includes your tights, shorts, socks, gloves, and hats.
There is gear that is gender-specific and convenient, like beanie hats to keep your ponytail tight all throughout the run. Muscle tape, or kinesiology tape, is essential to pack beforehand as well as this will help lessen the pressure on your muscles in order to avoid the chances of leg cramps.
It is important to take note of the amount of water and electrolytes that you take in during a running session. Hydration and electrolyte maintenance is key in ensuring that you don’t have leg cramps during a long run.
Bring a bottle of water and keep it handy, but do not down the whole bottle in one go. It is advised that you only take small sips of water during the run. Better yet, learn or train your body to drink after a certain kilometer mark.
Good form is important in reducing the chances of a leg cramp during a marathon. Bad running form means that certain muscles will be compensating for the lack of activity of the others, which would lead to cramping.
Remember not to slouch, and do not restrict your hip movement during the marathon. Extend your hips during a run—meaning you should drive your entire upper thigh and leg backward after your foot touches the ground. Not only will this relieve the stress in the muscles, but it will also help you run faster.
After a marathon, it is very important to warm your body up immediately postrace. Eating is your second priority, but that doesn’t mean stuffing yourself with a plate. A banana or energy bar can do the trick. Remember to stretch all the muscles that have been used up during the duration of the race.
An ice bath is also recommended for marathon runners after the race. Fill the bathtub with ice and cold water, and submerge your body for at least fifteen minutes.
This practice is known as delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOSM. Ice immersion has been known to be a great way to treat muscle soreness right after any intensive activity. This means reducing the inflammation in the muscles while also reducing the pain that comes with it.
The body will need to recover for at least fourteen days before it can be engaged again for another marathon. Take at least three days off without doing any running to avoid tearing any muscles and warranting any unwanted injuries.
Stretching is an important activity, however, and doing so will help your muscles slowly relax into a better state. Eat well during the first few days to help your body recover faster before going back to training and starting all over again.
Guest post by Kristin Harris