Gary Moller
Online Shop
Online Articles
About Gary Moller

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I suffer muscle cramps in my calves when running trail races

Hi Gary,
I am a 51 year old female distance runner mainly doing 20 --80k trail races. For the past 3 years every time I race I get muscle cramps in my calves and drop placings as I have to reduce my pace to a walk and or jog.

What I don't understand is that I often do the same type of training as I would be doing in the race regards, distance, speed and terrain and cannot induce cramp. I even "look after" myself better in races by being for careful with electrolytes, fluid intake etc.... Is it possible that something sub concious like perhaps my mind working more because it's a race, possibly contributing to needing even more electrolytes or the tension causing the muscles to tense etc... Often these cramps cause me to have a fall if I'm in a trail race and they seize me. The only thing I haven't tried is straight salt but am wondering if that would make any diffrence at all seeing as I don't have a problem during training. Could you please tell me more about the salt you mention on your web site as I'm desperate to give anything a go.


Averill, From experience racing and what you do in training have subtle differences that can make all the difference.  In a race you may start just that little bit quicker, the start may be earlier in the day to your usual training, you may have fewer pauses and you may be going at just a few heartbeats more.  

It may also be that you have not allowed adequate recovery over the 10 days leading into the races.  The other factor is the the calf muslces are tight and knotted and have poor circulation through them.  Few runners do not have damaged calf muscles.  A series of 4-8 deep tissue massages  weekly can make a huge difference to the strength and durability of them.

The other factor is nutrition.  Given your age and background, there will be a high possibility that you are lacking a number of essential nutrients.  The best way to resolve this is to complete an Active Elements Assessment and include in the additional information box details of everything you have eaten and drunk over the last day and list all medicines and their purposes.  I will then give some advice as to nutrition.

Ordinary salt is NaCl.  While your body needs a lot of this salt there are actually 12 different salts consisting of 18 individual elements.  Taking just NaCl is not a good idea and might even make matters worse.  It is better to do the Active Elements Assessment and I will work out which of the 12 salts, including NaCl, that you need.  Getting your salt balance right can work miracles for muscle cramps and health in general.

How about sports drinks?
Sports drinks are a one size fits all solution to electrolyte replacement.  I know of one Iron Man who spent a week in intensive care from flushing his system with a popular sports drink during a race.  He has never been the same since.  It is better to work out a tailored electrolyte plan for each person.

Have a read of my Super Smoothie recipe which is a nutritious way to replenish before and after the kind of exercise and competition you are doing.

If you ensure your body is richly supplied with nutrients before and after exercise and the muscles are without knotts then cramping should never be an issue.

Given that you ensure there is a rich supply of calories and nutrients during the race itself (I recommend mostly only water during a training session).  Have a good look at the new Balance Ultimate Recovery drink that is remarkably like my Super Smoothie.  It contains all the additional ingredients that I recommend for athletes while being in a fruit juice base.  It makes an excellent, highly tolerable alternative to the sports drink.  I like it.

Those clients of mine who used it during the recent round Lake Taupo cycle race all did personal bests and had no problems with cramping or post race soreness.

Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz

Do you have a question?
Email Gary: gary at (Replace the "at" with @ and remove spaces). Please include any relevant background information to your question.