Once the afterglow of completing my last race faded I had to come to terms with an obvious obstacle to my improving as a runner. Over the last several races I have started suffering calve cramps as I neared the finish. My legs betraying me at the most critical of junctures. Sometimes the left leg. Sometimes the right. But never ever in training. Even if the training distances are further than the race distances. Turning to other endurance athletes about this phenomenon I was given several tips that I’m now readily implementing. These tweaks to my dietary and training regimes are also a wonderful means of keeping things fresh and interesting, particularly as I enter the final stages of the race season when boredom and burnout can rear their ugly heads.
Among the ideas I’ll be employing are:
1. A more focused workout routine to strengthen my calve muscles. Toe raises from different angles, using different weights, and employing different combination movements to simulate and prepare for race conditions.
2. An investment in stomach antacids like Tums or Rolaids. Although there are arguments that my muscle cramping is more a factor of loss of conditioning, the addition of magnesium into my diet is posited to minimize the effects of painful muscle cramping. Many antacids are supplemented with magnesium, making this a very portable and affordable option for my training runs to test out how my body reacts to its ingestion. Magnesium, found in such foods as pumpkin seeds, is known to facilitate the absorption of such cramp-fighting super powers as calcium and potassium.
3. Compression socks. At first these somewhat nerdy looking hosiery items were something I had been taught were to help facilitate muscle recovery after a long run. However I’m now hearing more and more reports extolling their virtues at eliminating the calve cramp during long runs and races. While some feel that the extra length on the socks can be uncomfortable during the hot summer months, the fact that we are approaching the fall season is encouraging me to also look at this option as another layer to help keep me warm as the temperatures begin to drop.
As athletes we are always looking for that next something that will give us the boost to be better than we were. With these modifications to my diet and training I’m hoping to conquer the calve cramp and climb to newer heights.