Most cyclists will have experienced the onset of cramp, whether on the bike towards the end of a hard sportive or road race, or in day-to-day life.
It’s debilitating on the bike and, it seems, once cramp sets in it’s hard to recover, but fortunately, there are steps you can take to beat cramp.
Cramp is one of those terms that gets used a lot in sport and everyday life but actually describing it, understanding it and most importantly knowing how to prevent it can be difficult.
For most people it’s an intense pain, usually like a really tight muscle (you can normally see of feel the muscle hardening) that you just can’t get to relax, as a result of the muscle spasming and the fibres involuntarily contracting. For cyclists it’s most common in your quads, but can also strike your hamstrings, calves, upper back and neck. You desperately want to be able to stretch the muscle out, but this usually feels impossible and agonising to do.
What causes cramp?
The causes of cramp are multi-factoral, meaning that it’s usually more than one thing that can be attributed to causing it. Sports science research has struggled to come up with one definitive cause, but we do know that cramping certainly happens more so under certain conditions.
Commonly cramp tends to happen when at least one or more of the following apply: when we are really fatigued, are overreaching our current level conditioning, when we are dehydrated, are lacking of salts, have an underlying injury or put ourselves under an unusual bio-mechanical strain.
We’ll take a closer look at the causes of cramp, how you can prevent it, and what you can do to overcome cramp if it does strike, through the rest of this article.