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Cramps in the Calf Muscle While Bicycling

by
author image Peter Mitchell
Based near London, U.K., Peter Mitchell has been a journalist and copywriter for over eight years. Credits include stories for "The Guardian" and the BBC. Mitchell is an experienced player and coach for basketball and soccer teams, and has written articles on nutrition, health and fitness. He has a First Class Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) from Bristol University.
Cramps in the Calf Muscle While Bicycling
Calf cramping is a hazard for many long-distance cyclists. Photo Credit Randy Faris/Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images

The exact cause of calf muscle cramps is still not certain, but several factors appear to trigger cramping. For example, if you're dehydrated, lack some crucial body salts, push yourself too hard or are simply a little older, you're more likely to suffer from a calf cramp. Cramps while cycling are often focused on the calf muscle. Cyclists frequently experience calf cramps when they push their physical limits too hard.

Cramping

Calves are one of the most common areas of the body to experience cramping. When your calf cramps while cycling, it may feel hard, start twitching rapidly and will almost certainly cause discomfort. For many, cramps mean sharp, unbearable pain as the muscle fibers twitch uncontrollably. However, cramps are usually not cause for serious concern. With a bit of stretching or massage, the pain often disappears and the muscle may return to normal -- though you'll probably feel a little stiff the next day.

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Cycling Cramps

Calf cramps are among the most frequent complaints among long-distance cyclists. About 70 percent of male cyclists in a 100-mile bike ride suffered a cramp along the way, according to Cycling Performance Tips. The position of the foot on the pedal with the toes pointed down for long periods appears to contribute to calf cramping. If you often cycle for long distances in hot conditions, you're more likely to experience calf cramps.

Flushing the Cramp

If the cramp is severe, you'll probably want to jump off your bike and stretch the muscle. However, according to physical therapist and cyclist Lulu Weschler, you can flush out the calf cramp while cycling. With calf cramps, the muscle usually seizes up when the toes point downward too long. So push your heel back on the pedal so that the toes point up. Sit on the saddle and use your other leg to do most of the pedal work, with the cramping leg only exerting power through the four o'clock to six o-clock positions. This can help relieve cramps in the calf muscle while bicycling.

Prevention

If you're not drinking enough water both before and during your cycle ride, you could make calf cramps more likely. Bring water with you while you ride so you can stay hydrated throughout. Because cramping may also be related to an imbalance in your body's salt level, drinking a sports drink containing electrolytes might also help. If you're riding in very hot and humid conditions, boost the sodium levels of your meals slightly a few days before the ride -- a couple of sprinkles of sea salt will do. Stretching your muscles before cycling can also help prevent cramping.

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References

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