The leading causes of muscle cramps related to exercise are oxygen deprivation, dehydration, lack of stretching, electrolyte depletion and muscle fatigue. Lucky for us, we can kick our muscle cramps with these simple solutions:
Just Breathe: As it turns out, the age-old practice of breathing deeply through pain/discomfort is the best thing you can do to get through any stress. Overexertion depletes a muscle’s oxygen supply, leading to build up of lactic acid and spasm. The oxygen in your breath fuels your muscles (as well as calms your nervous system.) When you breathe full, deep breaths, you allow your muscles to contract and expand with ease and lower your stress level.
Hydrate: In addition to being one of the keys to looking and feeling youthful, staying hydrated keeps our bodies in balance, allowing us to function at our highest capacity. Doctors recommend drinking at least 64 ounces of water throughout the day. In addition, I recommend keeping a water bottle alongside you during class and consuming a refill afterward.
Stretch: Stretching is vital to muscle health and overall physical fitness, playing an equal part to cardiovascular activities and resistance training. Muscles are bundles of fibers that contract and expand to produce movement. At HSM we incorporate stretching to lengthen muscle fibers so they can contract and tighten more vigorously when you exercise, thus enabling you to work deeper and harder with less pain and fewer injuries. Stretching should occur both before exercise (after you’ve warmed up) and most importantly after exercising.
Maintain Electrolyte Levels: When you sweat, your body loses salt and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium. Muscle spasms tend to occur when your levels of these electrolytes get too low. Foods high in all three (potassium, magnesium and calcium) are whole wheat, oats and brown rice products, nuts (especially peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, pistachios), beans (especially navy, pinto, black), legumes, greens (especially fiddlehead ferns, beet greens and spinach), pumpkin seeds, squash, citrus fruits, bananas, berries and spices such as sage, basil, mustard seed, thyme, oregano and cinnamon.
Take Breaks: Whether you’re just starting HSM or pushing yourself to a higher level, listen to your body and break when you need to by taking deep breaths and maybe having a sip of water. When your muscles are fatigued you are at a higher risk of cramping, so take it slow in the beginning. With time your muscles will strengthen, your endurance with improve, you will need fewer breaks, experience fewer cramps and reap the benefits of having a toned, healthy physique.