Leg cramps, also called "charley horses," are characterized by a tightness in the muscles that usually involve an involuntary, painful muscle contraction that feels like a "knot." Leg cramps that take place while you are sleeping are called "nocturnal cramps." When you are exercising and a severe cramp appears, it can feel like you got shot in the leg with a speeding bullet. The way to avoid them is by following some key steps.
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Avoid dehydrating beverages. Anything that has caffeine in it such as coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks can cause dehydration, which can lead to cramps. The muscles in your legs, and the rest of your body for that matter, are highly comprised of water and they rely on it for proper function. Drink water instead of any other beverage, especially before, during and after your workouts. Women should get 2.7 total liters of water a day and men get 3.7 liters a day, the Institute of Medicine recommends.
Increase your flexibility. Tight calf muscles are a big reason why leg cramps take place when you are exercising. Keep your calves and the rest of the leg muscles flexible by doing static stretches. This is when you hold a stretch in a fixed position. A good way to target the whole body is by attending yoga classes. An example of a pose that can stretch the calves and hamstrings is a downward facing dog. To perform this, come into a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your toes on the floor. Push your weight back toward your heels and lift your hips up in the air until your body is in about a 90 degree angle. Hold for 45 to 60 seconds.
Warm up before you exercise. If you do not warm up before you exercise, then your legs are going to be more apt to cramp up. This is because they are cold and tight. Start off your workout sessions with a 10-minute warmup jog or fast-paced walk. Then follow it with some dynamic stretching. Unlike static, this stretching is in motion. Some examples are sides steps, lunges, leg swings and front kicks.
Go for a massage. Massages help to relax the body and mind, but they can also help loosen up knots and flush lactic acid from the muscles, which can reduce the chances for cramps. Get massages after you have completed your workouts.
Eat right to prevent cramps. Muscle cramps can develop when there is a deficiency in potassium, magnesium and calcium. Make sure you get enough of these nutrients in your diet on a daily basis. Some examples of foods that contain these nutrients include bananas, potatoes, yogurt, milk, apricots and orange juice.