Whether you’re an avid runner and you don’t want your next workout to end prematurely due to severe leg cramps or you’re just interested in getting some pointers that help you avoid leg cramps through your next busy day at work that consists of mostly time spent on your feet, the following insight is just for you.
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The focus of this article teaches you a few leg stretches that should help you keep cramps at bay. However, we’ll also look at some related factors, such as whether your dietary choices are affecting your leg cramps or if you need to visit a doctor to find out if there’s a more severe problem going on that’s causing your legs to be in pain.
1. The Hamstring Standing Stretch
To begin, get a chair and put the back of it facing a wall. Then, stand in front of it, and put your right heel firmly on the chair. Depending on your height and the height of the chair seat, you may need to adjust how far away you stand from the chair. The idea is that your leg should be straight when it’s on the chair.
Once you’ve achieved a straight leg and can hold that position comfortably, bend forward from the hips while keeping your upper body straight and your other foot firmly on the floor. Hold for 10 seconds, and then switch sides. Do this stretch a total of three times per side.
2. The Standing Calf Stretch
This stretch is perhaps one you’ve seen before if you’ve ever paid attention to runners getting ready to go out on the track or trail. It’s easy to do anywhere because no special equipment is required. To start, stand facing a solid surface that’s large enough to accommodate your hands, such as a wall. If you’re outside and there’s no wall in sight, improvise by using a sturdy tree trunk. Make sure that your hands are straight out in front of you and at chest height.
Keep your palms flat against the surface so you have a sturdy base of support. Next, put your right foot in front of your left and move so that your knee is bent. Your left leg should remain straight, so your body is in a lunge-type position. Once you have gotten in that position and feel secure, bend your right knee further so your entire body gets closer to the wall. After holding for 10 seconds, switch to the other side. Do this stretch three times each on the right and left.
3. Seated Calf And Hamstring Stretch
To do this one, you’ll need to sit on the floor. Begin with both legs out in front of you, so you’re sitting long-leg style. Keep your back straight while doing that. Then, bend forward slowly at the hips. As you do that, you’ll begin to feel a gentle stretch in the back of your legs. Try to reach forward as far as you can until you are either grasping your calves or your toes, depending on your current flexibility level.
As with the two other exercises you’ve learned about, aim to hold this one for 10 seconds before returning to the starting position. Although there’s obviously no need to switch sides when doing this stretch, it’s still good to perform the stretch several times before getting off the floor.
These stretches may seem simple, but they could offer a powerful way to prevent debilitating cramps. Data from a Dutch study indicated that people who suffered from leg cramps late at night who did a three-minute workout were able to cut down the times they experienced cramps by more than half. Furthermore, when the cramps did happen, they were not as severe as before they were told to get active and stretch the muscles to banish cramps.
If you are not currently very flexible, the very act of stretching may seem discouraging because it’s a conscious reminder of how much progress you still have left to make. However, try to keep a healthy perspective by remembering that at least you’ve become devoted to stretching your legs now, and the more you do it, the more flexible you’ll become. When you do these stretches or any others, always move with gentle motions and never jerk your body in the hope that a jerky movement will make your muscles stretch more.
Finally, listen carefully to your body, especially in terms of pain. If you are very inflexible, do not have a current stretching regimen and/or are not very active, the stretches described above may cause mild discomfort. Try not to overdo it, because that could lead to muscle strains. Although it’s normal to feel a pulling sensation as the muscles stretch, you should not be in agony during the stretch.
You may find it useful to be coached by a personal trainer or fitness-oriented friend while doing these stretches. That person can give constant feedback to help you keep your body in the proper alignment throughout the movements. Also, the individual can help you stay focused on your progress by noting the times when your growing level of flexibility is especially apparent.
Diet And Its Role In Leg Cramps
There are also some dietary deficiencies that may cause leg cramps. If leg cramps are a constant concern, it’s worth looking at your diet as well as performing the stretches you’ve just discovered.
Leg cramps are sometimes associated with a sodium deficiency. However, this situation is relatively rare because humans naturally crave salt. There are also nutrition experts who believe that leg cramps are happening due to a fluid imbalance in the body or dehydration. If you think that may be the case for you, make sure to keep properly hydrated, and consider drinking beverages that are rich in electrolytes, such as fluids made for athletes.
Leg cramps have also been connected to potassium and calcium deficiencies. One of the most popular ways to conquer the first is to eat more bananas, and you may be able to tackle the second simply by drinking more milk or potentially taking calcium supplements.
When To See A Doctor
Leg cramps are often not serious, but there are some cases when you should seek a doctor’s advice to make sure there’s not something more serious that’s triggering your pain and involuntarily tensed muscles. Talk to you doctor if your leg cramps begin or get worse after you start taking a new medication.
Also, if you experience leg pain whenever you walk, but the discomfort gets better after resting, that could be a sign you have a condition called claudication which causes a narrowing of the blood vessels and could put you at a greater risk of having a heart attack.
Hopefully, this insight makes you feel empowered to take control of your leg cramps. Fortunately, it’s usually pretty simple to deal with this common problem once you know the recommended strategies.