View Full Version : Kicking and cramping

July 18th, 2011, 01:09 PM
Think I've managed to get back in the water once again this summer, open water only. I've run into the same problem again this year that I had a couple years back. Cramping, only when I kick.

Normally for me most of the time my feet are 'flailing' in the water. Not doing anything real useful unless I think about it and really try to keep them spread apart so I can kick. Once I do this and start kicking about 10 seconds later my calves start cramping up. I stop kicking and get the cramping to go away and I can continue on swimming like normal, flailing. If I try to kick again, the cramping comes right back once again.

I normally eat 2 bananas each day for lunch and drink a gallon or more of water a day so I know dehydration shouldn't be an issue and lack of potassuim(sp?) shouldn't really be much of an issue either.

I can get the cramping at the beginning of a swim or after doing a couple of miles. The only trigger that always seems to hold consistent is I will start cramping once I start kicking.

Any suggestions on how I might get rid of the cramping but still be able to kick?

July 18th, 2011, 02:04 PM
Try to build into the kicking. Most of the times I cramp up is when I start kicking hard after having not kicked hard for a long time. For example, if I swim a long aerobic set and then immediately go into a sprint set.

July 18th, 2011, 04:04 PM
Is the cramping a result of overuse? Are you running and cycling before swimming? It happens to me too, but I know the cause.

Stretching helps too of course.

July 19th, 2011, 08:57 AM
Sorry, just remembered I hadn't updated my email address with the website, hence why I hadn't gotten an email message saying there were any replies back to my question.

Back in 2009 when I first noticed it I wasn't doing any biking or running. I was always driving the short hop, skip and jump to the lake to swim. This year I am biking, exclusively, since I haven't driven since the end of April 2010.

I can get the cramps at the beginning, middle or end of short(.25 mile) or long(4-5 mile) swim. The amount of swimming I've did makes no difference.

I'm going to try Knelson's idea today and see if that makes any difference.

The only other possible idea I've seen looking back at old messages, that I'm not sure if I've tried or not, is the cold water factor. The water isn't that cold. I don't mind swimming in cutoff jeans(bad I know) at all. In fact, on Sunday I only found one cold spot, at the turn around point, on the whole .5 mile long swim. Actually I was surprised I only found one. I figured this early in the summer I would find quite a few more. It doesn't seem like it has been THAT warm this year. It was about 2/3rd of the way back to the beach when I started kicking/cramping.

July 20th, 2011, 10:46 PM
I don't think I suffer from the exact same symptoms, but I am intrigued by the topic of "kicking and cramping".

I eat one banana a day, I have circulation issues and a blown out knee and generally weak legs. Kicking is the one thing that didn't come back like riding a bike as a 40 year old masters swimmer.

For me it usually kicks in around 2000 yards. Cardiovascular wise, I am fine but I never know when those damn cramps are going to kick in.

Kick sets are extremely frustrating and I feel as if I get negative returns from them. As in they hurt so bad and only make me more sore and seem to accelerate the onset of problems.

As such, I have an on and off relationship with using a kickboard at all. 75% of the time and right now I have given it up completely because I feel it is to my benefit overall (I never feel any benefit from kicking - just pain). Yet it is my greatest weakness that maybe should be attacked.

Maybe someone has the magic bullet, but I am afraid we might just be anatomically hosed.

July 20th, 2011, 10:50 PM
I always find that if I try to do a kick set near the middle to end of the workout, it usually means I'll be getting out of the water within 100-200 yards later. CRAMPS, either hamstrings, calves, or arch of my foot. Once the cramps start, you're pretty much finished. I suppose if I were to drink more water (why???) on a regular basis, it would probably help a little, but water doesn't taste as good as soda.:anim_coffee:
Plus, according to the sprinter people, us middle D type folks don't need to kick anyway. We get confused if we try to count past 2 kicks per stroke cycle!!! :confused:

July 21st, 2011, 12:07 AM
just a few comments, I'm not a cramp expert by any means.

I would think drinking more water could lead to a drop in electrolytes, since electrolytes are very soluble in water? I think water is lower in electrolytes than your blood, so it could be draining them a bit.

Also, potassium is not the only electrolyte...perhaps a general electrolyte supplement (just enough to keep from cramping, but not in excess) would be helpful.

Finally, if the cramping is due to lactic acid that builds up, perhaps work on calf fitness a bit. A lot of us swimmers have weak calves because they are one of the few muscles in swimming that don't get much use. I suspect you bike a lot too though, so this probably doesn't apply.

The Fortress
July 21st, 2011, 10:06 AM
Agree with Marksman!

I used to get calf cramps all the time when I trained sprint dolphin kick. Drinking water is not the answer, and indeed only flushes out the electrolytes. I had some blood testing done and discovered that I was somewhat low on sodium and potassium and had almost zero red blood cell magnesium. I was put on magnesium injections b/c the deficiency was at an intracellular level. It was helped tremendously! Now when I get a calf cramp, I know it's most likely from overexertion/fatigue from my current workout combo of kick heavy swim workouts + weights & plyos + bikram yoga.

July 21st, 2011, 08:59 PM
The funny thing is at times you can tell what the cause of the problem is.. ie, yesterday.

After an early morning errand run on the bike(25 miles roundtrip) I loafed until around 3:30PM and headed for the lake. Everything seemed fine, compared to today. I got in the water and started what ended up being a rather interesting 1.7 mile swim. Rather shortly after start...not even .25 mile, I already had my first cramp of the day in the right calf. I hadn't even been trying to kick. For me the only 'kicking' I do when not kicking is mostly just crossing one foot over the other, not nice and symettrical(sp?) like you would normally want. The cramping continued off and on the entire swim. Granted the swim didn't get helped any by Mother Nature. That was the worst chop I've seen thus far. At the half way point I stood on a rock by shoreline and was shocked by the dynamic nature of the waves. I don't think I have ever seen it that bad before. I knew the trip back was going to be 'fun' to say the least...right into the wind. I played with arm stroke technique on the way back and didn't worry about anything else...as long as the cramps stayed away.

After running pretty much the same errand this morning and seeing how much worse off I was thanks to Mother Nature...talk about surfing like a stuck pig, I decided to take the day off and only get wet, instead of doing any swimming. I knew dehydration was EXTREMELY easy today compared to yesterday. I knew I was going to be in real bad shape if I tried and I also knew the wind/chop was definitely going to a lot worse than yesterday.

At times you can rule something as being the main culprit...yesterday I would say was dehydration, several days ago I wouldn't say that though.

Redbird Alum
July 22nd, 2011, 02:43 PM
Do you kick more from the knee, from the hip, or use both? Do you flex the ankle at all and/or keep it loose to allow the foot to act more as a flipper? Have you tried using an easy kick with fins? Do you stretch the legs out as much as you do your upper body and arms?

What's important, as much as the nutritional advice already given, is to use the entire set of leg muscles from the gluts to the toes. If you are too focussed in one area, or are too stiff in the legs, cramps will be more likely.

July 22nd, 2011, 09:20 PM
Actually the one thing that I have started changing in the past several days is the upper body. I stumbled in the Total Immersion videos and have started changing my stroke and stretching the upper body less than what I had been in the past. It has made the swimming much easier and it seems like I'm not wasting as much energy by swimming wrong anymore.

Now to your comment, I haven't really ever paid that much attention to how I kick when I kick. I'm going to have to pay closer attention the next time I'm swimming and see what the process is that I use. It does seem like right before I cramp up(when kicking) that I'm making the leg stiffer rather than more relaxed. Like I said though I'm going to have pay more attention before I can say for sure how I'm kicking.

Seeing everything I'm seeing happen the past few days I'm think I'm going to start rethinking it not being nutritionally related. I wasn't even swimming today, just standing in the water when I was very easily able to move the wrong way and have the calf start to cramp on me. That was a first time experience. I was cooling down quite a bit as 10 minutes or so later I hopped out and sit on one of the swim docks in the lake and was practically shivering for the 10-15 minutes...it was in the low to mid 90's for outside air temp at the time. The water temp has to be 75-80 right now. It was a very unique experience. I have to fess I had stood pretty much still in water up to my neck for 30-45 minutes straight just trying to cool down/stay cool.