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When Your Cramping Is NOT An Electrolyte Issue

Many people experience cramps during training or racing, especially in their calves.  Sometimes it is a hydration or electrolyte issue.  But what if you address those issues and you are still cramping, especially later in races?  What then?

It often comes down to HOW you are training.  You need to be training based on the demands of the race.  If you are not training for the demands of the race, then your body will not perform like it needs to for the race.

Muscle fatigue

Muscle fatigue can be a cause of cramping.

Our bodies can respond in a number of ways when it comes to muscle fatigue.  At times, muscle fatigue causes exhaustion, not allowing us to continue at a high level due to the muscles basically not wanting to work any longer.  Other times when the muscles fatigue, rather than just going to failure or exhaustion, they will do the opposite and tighten up instead, resulting in muscle cramps.

Muscle cramping due to fatigue normally occurs under high repetition or power situations.  In the OCR world, it is more common to see this on courses that have steeper and/or longer hills than you are used to training on or possibly when the course is muddier and requires increased firing of the muscles to control the foot and maintain steadiness.

How to decrease the risk of this happening?  Work on your muscular endurance.  Some examples to train this include longer runs, hill training, and long chipper CrossFit/HIIT type workouts.

Not mixing endurance and power

When racing, we are combining running with obstacles that require us to jump and land, meaning we are mixing endurance with quick explosions of power and fast muscle firing.  Essentially, requiring our bodies to switch between fast twitch and slow twitch fibers in a very quick manner.

Do you train that way?

Many times, I see people train their running (and other cardio activities) and their power separately, meaning you go for a run in one training session and then in a separate training session you do your strength training and/or agility type movements.  I’m not saying you can’t train that way most times, as doing your long runs and improving your endurance is essential, but making sure you mix the two together occasionally is important as well

So what could this combined training look like?  Here are a couple (very general) examples for you:

  • HIIT style workouts that combine running and some sort of jumping task, such as jumping squats, jumping lunges, box jumps, or jump rope.
  • On your normal run, throw in some plyometric or agility drills every 2-3 miles.

If you are experiencing cramping, especially in your calves later in the race, start to assess these different aspects to see what your issues may be.

Need help to sort this all out?  Have more questions regarding your situation?  Email with your questions.


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