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runner64
July 28th, 2009, 08:57 AM
In 2 weeks of regular swimming (2-3x weekly), I've gotten myself to over a half mile already. My speed has increased noticeably. From a tip I already picked up out here, my freestyle form is much more rythmic, and my breast stroke has is starting to take on the early signs of a butterfly.

But I've been having some really nasty cramping issues in my calves. I mean horrific pain and knotting.

What's a good way to combat that? Is it the water temperture that causes it? (the pool I swim in will never be mistaken for a jacuzzi)

Any tips or advice will be greatly appreciated.

gigi
July 28th, 2009, 09:26 AM
Though I occasionally suffer from cramping (usually in my feet) when I swim, the kind of recurring, really debilitating cramping you describe is usually a "beginning of the season" thing - in my experience anyway. If I've been away from the pool for any length of time the first few weeks back generally involve a period of cramping in muscles that are being pulled and twisted into different positions. For me the only way out is through...just keep on keepin on and it will all work out.

I'm guessing by your name that you're a runner so you probably know some good stretches for the calves and ankles, no? Stretching after cool down could help.

Good luck - I'm interested to hear what others suggest here

runner64
July 28th, 2009, 09:57 AM
Though I occasionally suffer from cramping (usually in my feet) when I swim, the kind of recurring, really debilitating cramping you describe is usually a "beginning of the season" thing - in my experience anyway. If I've been away from the pool for any length of time the first few weeks back generally involve a period of cramping in muscles that are being pulled and twisted into different positions. For me the only way out is through...just keep on keepin on and it will all work out.

I'm guessing by your name that you're a runner so you probably know some good stretches for the calves and ankles, no? Stretching after cool down could help.

Good luck - I'm interested to hear what others suggest here

yeah, I run a lot, race regularly. :D

I thought about that, also thought about my pre-swim warmup (which, admitedly, isn't much right now but I'm going to start trying to get a little bead going before I hit the pool).

Thanks,

Bobinator
July 28th, 2009, 10:21 AM
Running requires a stretched achilles tendon, swimming requires the opposite(shortened achilles for pointed, streamlined toes). If you are more a beginner swimmer you will just have to work through this till your calves adapt. Try calf stretches after you are warmed up (swimming and running), a 1/4 or sometimes 1/2" heel lift under the insoles of your running shoes can help alot. During the day wear good shoes possibly with the heel lift. Do not wear high heels! Also make sure your feet get great arch support all day and especially while running, if you don't you could possibly develop plantar faceitis. (it's really hard to get rid of)

Speedo
July 28th, 2009, 10:42 AM
Though I occasionally suffer from cramping (usually in my feet) when I swim, the kind of recurring, really debilitating cramping you describe is usually a "beginning of the season" thing - in my experience anyway.
I agree w/Gigi. Last year when I started it lasted 1-2mos and then disappeared for good.

jackieg
July 28th, 2009, 10:46 AM
There are also connections between cramping and electrolye levels. Have you been hydrating during swimming as you would while running? You probably sweat a lot from your running training, and may not be replacing enough.

runner64
July 28th, 2009, 11:14 AM
There are also connections between cramping and electrolye levels. Have you been hydrating during swimming as you would while running? You probably sweat a lot from your running training, and may not be replacing enough.

I'm trying to make sure I do. I'm also thinking about hydrating during my swim like I do when running. Depending on which day I'm running I hit the "water station" every mile to 2 miles. I'm thinking maybe I should apply the same concept and put a water bottle or bottle of Gatorade on the wall at the end of the pool and hit it every 10-12 laps, something like that. Just because you're swimming doesn't mean you're not sweating, you just don't notice it.

Tina
July 28th, 2009, 05:11 PM
I used to get really bad cramps too. I'm not very good about stretching before swimming. Someone suggested that I take supplements, specifically calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin D. I was getting cramps in the pool, but those have stopped with proper hydration and the supplements. I eat a banana an hour before my swim, and sometimes after my swim too because I don't like to take pills. I definitely noticed the disappearance of those awful cramps after about 3 or 4 weeks of supplementing regularly.

Good luck!
Tina

bamueller
July 29th, 2009, 12:40 AM
But I've been having some really nasty cramping issues in my calves. I mean horrific pain and knotting.

What's a good way to combat that? Is it the water temperture that causes it? (the pool I swim in will never be mistaken for a jacuzzi)

Any tips or advice will be greatly appreciated.

I used to have your same problem and I couldn't figure it out, so I kept training through it. What I have learned about my physique is the following.

I need to eat and hydrate properly before swimming. If my urine is not clear before I swim, I expect cramping. This resolves 80% of my cramping issues. Hydrating means more than just water to me. I drink gatorade, powerade, or heed, whatever I have access to at the time.

I need to stretch my calves and feet. I do this by standing on stairs, one leg at a time. If I run the day before, I stretch more. If I cramp during swims, I stretch on the wall.

The more I swim (days, weeks, months, ect), the more I train my body for swimming. Since you are getting back into it, it will take some time for your body to adjust.

If you swim through a calf cramp, expect major calf pain 1, 2, 3 days later.

Good luck!

Ripple
July 29th, 2009, 08:06 AM
Make sure you aren't purposely pointing your toes when you swim. Keep the foot loose and floppy.
In addition to all the other advice listed above, try massaging your calf muscles over a tennis ball a few times a week. Sit on the floor, put the ball under the meatiest part of the calf, and roll your leg around it. Hurts like h***, but really gets the knots out.

bamueller
July 29th, 2009, 12:21 PM
Make sure you aren't purposely pointing your toes when you swim. Keep the foot loose and floppy.
In addition to all the other advice listed above, try massaging your calf muscles over a tennis ball a few times a week. Sit on the floor, put the ball under the meatiest part of the calf, and roll your leg around it. Hurts like h***, but really gets the knots out.

Good advice. This also works well for back spasms too, and it does hurt.

runner64
July 30th, 2009, 10:03 AM
so, last night I took some of the advice you guys gave me and swam 46 cramp-free laps I put my water bottle at the end of the pool and took a couple hits off of it every 10 laps, seemed to work really well.

Thanks,

:bliss:

aztimm
July 30th, 2009, 05:08 PM
I also run and swim, and also cramp up when swimming, especially on days when I run in the morning and swim after work.

Whenever I think I've found the solution to this, I cramp up and am back to square 1. Certainly for longer runs or swims (over an hour) you should drink something like Gatorade, and water regardless of the duration. I read somewhere that the potassium levels in a typical banana are less than a tomato, but if one works, then fine. I'll usually eat 2 bananas during the day after a run, before swimming.

For me, I get the worst cramps from pushing off the walls after a turn. Breaststroke can aggrevate it even more than free or back. I prefer long course, just for the fewer walls.

There really are so many factors that play into this, it is impossible to pinpoint which will work. And even if I've done all I can during the day, showing up to a warm pool can set off cramps anyway.

A good preventative measure I began a few months ago was leg weights. Nothing crazy, but building up my leg muscles seems to help me more than anything else.

aztimm
July 30th, 2009, 05:11 PM
I agree w/Gigi. Last year when I started it lasted 1-2mos and then disappeared for good.

That would be an easy solution, but doesn't work for me. I workout year-round, so don't begin or end a season, and my cramps don't discriminate in when they'll visit. Could happen to me in June or January.

Stevepowell
July 30th, 2009, 05:44 PM
Calf lifts w/several seconds of stretch (heel down while ball of foot is on step).

EJB190
October 3rd, 2009, 05:39 PM
Try either eating a banana or taking a potassium supplement.

I used to get cramps all the time in preseason soccer and swimming. Also after 400's in track. Taking in more potassium has literally rid me of cramps. I forgot to take some before my first swim practice last fall and got two cramps in my calves so bad I couldn't get out of the pool.

Try it. It really does work. I've told friends about it and it has helped them.

__steve__
October 5th, 2009, 08:11 AM
Pickle juice! One swig contains all the sodium/potassium salts you need.

notsofast
October 5th, 2009, 08:28 AM
Pickle juice! One swig contains all the sodium/potassium salts you need.
. . . not if you spew them all over the deck.
Yuck!

henrycalhoun51
October 8th, 2009, 03:18 AM
I had the same issues, I take msm flakes in water, a pure brand from one of these raw foody sites, solved my problem immediately.

__steve__
October 8th, 2009, 12:33 PM
I find cramping is endurance related. Once my typical duration is exceeded I enter the cramp zone. Usually bottom of feet and hamstring/leg bicepts.

mj_mcgrath
October 9th, 2009, 10:38 AM
As a long-time runner, I did get cramps from pushing off walls while swimming. The explosive move triggered the spasms, I believe. Over time, the cramps went away except at certain times when I doubled workouts (e.g. run/swim or bike/swim). So I agree with Steve that cramps are endurance and muscle related.

Anecdotal stories claim that cramps are cured by hydration or electrolytes or some other nutrient. And if that works go for it. What I don't understand about these theories is this: if the body is lacking something that causes cramps, why do the cramps occur only in the calves, for example, and not every muscle in the entire body?

Lots of theories but little science. However, try this site for an analysis from a scientific viewpoint:

http://www.sportsscientists.com/2008/01/featured-series-on-science-of-sport.html


Scroll down to the series of articles on Muscle Cramps or see this summary:
Regular stretching will help reduce the incidence of your cramps. This is because, as we explained in Part III, stretching will reduce the alpha motor neurone activity, and thus reduce muscle contraction---which is all a cramp is anyway, an uncontrolled contraction. Therefore stretching often is recommended especially if you know you are a cramper.
"I swallow an electrolyte pill and my cramping stops." This is a comment we hear often, and although we cannot explain this physiologically, the more important message is that you have found something that works for you. We cannot stress how important this is! All the science in the world can point to something, but if what you are doing works for you, then you are better to stick with that technique. We invest so much time and energy (i.e. blood, sweat and tears!) into our training, and if you know that taking some supplement---providing it is legal, of course---will prevent a cramp during your marathon, then by all means you must take it.