If you’re struck down by cramp then it can be difficult to overcome without reducing the intensity at which you are riding. So prevention is better than cur and to reduce the chances of you developing cramp make sure:
- You are adequately hydrated with the right amount of fluid for each hour of your ride. Also make sure that your drink contains electrolytes to help maintain your fluid balance.
- You train properly for the length, duration, and intensity of the event you are going to do. Ensuring that your body is as used to the demands of your event as possible will help prevent cramping in response to an unaccustomed load.
- You are comfortable on properly and are happy with your equipment. Versus the cost of your bike, a bike fit is a relatively cheap thing to do to make sure that it works properly for you.
- You look after any injuries with the help of a qualified physiotherapist, preferably one who understands the demands of cycling. Maintaining a regular stretching and conditioning routine can help to prevent long-term problems.
Dealing with cramp
Despite seemingly doing everything to avoid cramp, it can still bite, and that’s particularly frustrating if it’s at the sharp end of an event you’ve been targeting for months. However, if you are unfortunate enough to suffer with cramp while out on the bike, the following tips may help:
- If the cramp is not so intense that you have to stop immediately, try dropping down a few gears and spin out a bit more. As you do this, change your position to try and load the area as least as possible, e.g. try swapping from seated to standing, or slide yourself further forward or back on your saddle.
- If you do need to stop, DO NOT hold long, static stretches. This can actually tighten up the muscle more. Try getting off your bike and walking around a little, and try some small range, dynamic stretches whilst the cramp starts to ease. Make sure that you keep drinking your electrolyte drink during this time.
- Once you get back on the bike, make sure that you keep the effort easy as you get back into your rhythm. Use lower gears, and take it very steady on any climbs. If you’re out with friends in a group, now is the time to cash in those drafting favours and sit behind them for a few miles!
- Make sure that you continue to hydrate and fuel yourself properly.
Emma Barraclough is the Senior Sports Nutritionist for Science in Sport, for information visit www.scienceinsport.com