Cramp After Running – What Causes it? UPDATED 2022
If you have experienced cramp after running, don’t worry you are one of the millions of other runners that have experienced them too.
Cramp after running can be not only annoying but sometimes painful. It often comes randomly and is sometimes hard to pinpoint the cause of it. Sometimes it can be from dehydration, rapid movement, or just overworked muscles. There are lots of things that can cause you to get cramps in your calf, hamstring, quadriceps, and even feet.
In this article, we dive deep into what causes cramps after running, as well as ways you can prevent it from happening.
So keep reading to find out what causes that feeling of pain, discomfort, and tightening of your muscles after exercise.
Cramping After Running – What You Should know
While cramping during running is often talked about, cramping after running is not. This often is because people think it is normal after a hard training session or race. However, this can be further from the truth.
Many things can cause cramping after running. Some of these include:
– Overworked muscles
– Muscle Fatigue
– Nerve contractions
– Sudden movements after exercise.
However, the most common cause of cramps after running is muscle fatigue. Muscle fatigue affects the way your nerves control muscle contractions. So, after a long hard training session, it is not uncommon to feel your muscles flickering, cramping, or even pulsating.
The second most common cause of cramp after running is dehydration. Many runners during the summer months don’t carry enough water, or even stop to have a drink during their run. This often prevents them from replacing vital fluids and electrolytes that are important to prevent cramps and loss of performance.
If you are experiencing cramps after a long run and also saw a fast decline in your speed over the final 30 minutes, most likely you are dehydrated.
Another cause of cramp after exercising is from fatigued muscles. For a runner that pushes their body on a long run, or even through a workout it is common for the muscles to feel fatigued. However, when you overwork them, it is common to feel a pulsating feeling, a slight cramp coming on, and also a feeling of tightness.
Leg Cramps After Running – What Causes it?
The most common causes of leg cramps after running is dehydration, poor stretching, and lack of carbohydrate before exercising. However, there are times where you have pushed the body far above its limits and you end up experiencing muscles spasms and cramps in your legs. This is generally seen more in novices than experienced runners, but it can happen with the more trained runner.
So, if you are a novice runner that experiences leg cramps after running, try slowing down your speed and focus on time on the feet, rather than intensity. Then as your general fitness improves, you can start to add some higher intensity workouts to your training.
The same goes for long runs. Slowly build up your mileage. By doing this you will prevent injuries from appearing and cramps from happening. It will also help improve your cardiovascular fitness and prevent you from losing motivation early on.
For the more experienced running that struggles with leg cramps after running. It is important to check your fluid intake before and during your training. Heading into a training session dehydrated is a sure sign of post-exercise cramps, and the same goes for not drinking enough fluid during your session.
What Causes Calf Cramp After Running?
While there are some general causes of cramps after exercise we have talked about, when it comes to the calf muscles there are some added curveballs.
As a runner, the calf muscles are constantly under stress and often tight, inflamed, and fatigued. So, it’s not uncommon you may feel cramp in your calves after running.
However, if this is a common occurrence you may need to check your running style or shoes. If you are running on your forefoot heavily, you may be overworking the calf muscles. This often results in tight calf muscles that often cramp after exercise.
Shoes are another important factor when thinking about what causes calf cramp after running. If you are used to a high heel-to-toe drop and then move into a zero-drop running shoe, you often find more stress is placed on the calf. This results in an overworked calf muscle that is prone to cramping, pulsating, and becoming inflamed.
How to Prevent Cramps After Running?
Luckily there are some easy ways to prevent cramps after running. This includes:
– Make sure you are hydrated before running
– Make sure you hydrate during your run
– Drink an electrolyte drink when running in warm weather
– Massage your muscles after a hard run
– Make sure you have a carbohydrate-rich meal 90 minutes before
– Slowly break in your running shoes
– Have your running technique analysed
Little things like eating and drinking after you run can help any cramps from appearing. As well as foam rolling and massage can help your muscles to relax after a hard session.
If you have tried everything to prevent cramps after exercise. Try to drink electrolyte drink during exercise or use salt tablets. Both will help with replacing lost salts during exercise.
Alternatively, the last resort is to speak to a qualified running coach physiotherapist or dietitian. All can help find the root cause of your cramps. Whether this is from your training, diet, shoes, or running style. Either one of those people can help you diagnose the reason behind the cramps.
So, if this is happening more than once in a blue moon, it’s time to take a serious look at what is causing it.