Although people older than 65 and those who are overweight or ill are most susceptible to cramps in the calves while exercising, they can happen to anyone. Calf cramps while biking or running can be painful and debilitating, making it difficult to continue your exercise routine. To properly treat calf cramps, it is important to understand what causes them to occur and how they can be prevented.
Defining Muscle Cramps
A muscle cramp is a sudden and intense contraction or spasm that can develop in any muscle group, including the calf. The calf muscle is especially susceptible because it spans two joints. The muscle tissue can feel hard and lumpy and can sometimes even be visible beneath the surface of the skin. The cramp can occur in all or just part of the muscle, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to more than 15 minutes.
Causes of Cramps
Calf cramps can develop if you overuse the leg muscles and they become fatigued during excessive biking or running. It can also occur if you strain the calf muscles with sudden jerky movements or by not properly preparing your body for exercise. In addition, calf cramps can occur if you exercise while dehydrated, especially if running or biking in warm weather. Some underlying medical conditions such as nerve compression, kidney disorders and mineral depletion can also be responsible for exercise-related calf cramps.
Treatments for Cramps
Immediately stop biking or running if you develop a calf cramp. Gently stretch out the leg and massage the calf, holding the muscle in a stretched position until the cramp subsides. Apply a heating pad or cold compress to the cramped muscle to ease soreness and tension. You can also take a bath in hot water to release tight muscles and treat cramping.
To prevent cramps in the calves while jogging or riding your bike, make sure that you warm up your muscles prior to exercise. Run in place or take a brisk walk for about five minutes before your exercise routine. You can also stretch your calf muscles by leaning forward and putting both of your hands against a wall, and placing one foot in front of the other. Press your back heel into the floor and hold the stretch for about 30 seconds. In addition, drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise to avoid dehydration.