Drinking too much water before a run can cause stomach cramps. The Singapore General Hospital (SGH) shares more about the other types of cramps that can occur when you run and possible causes.
Associate Professor Darren Tay, Senior Consultant from the
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at
Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the
SingHealth group, shares the common types of cramps that occur while running and causes, and gives advice on how to relieve them.
Cramps are one of the most dreaded ailments for a runner.
In fact, runners of all abilities can experience some sort of cramping during a run, be it muscle cramps, stomach cramps or side cramps (stitches).
At the first warning sign of muscle cramps, stop and stretch. Remember to breathe deeply if you experience side cramps during a run.
Stretching can help relieve and stop muscle contractions. Resume running when the pain has eased but pick up speed gradually.
Watch the video below for tips to prevent cramps during running.
Check out our other articles on running:
Jogging in the City: What You Need to Know
Why You Shouldn't Overlook Running Injuries
Home Remedies for Common Running Injuries
Tips to Avoid Common Running Injuries
Training Plan for Your First Marathon
What, why and how these methods work
Practise deep breathing
As shallow breathing is a main cause of side cramps or stomach cramps during a run, learn to take deep, full breaths from the diaphragm and not from the chest.
You lose about half a litre of fluid per half-hour of intense exercise. Prevent muscle cramps by drinking about 500 ml (16 oz, or two cups of water) at least two hours before a run. Before starting the race, drink another 125 ml (4 oz, or half a cup) of water. Subsequently, aim to drink about half a cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes during the run. Avoid carbonated drinks.
Replenish electrolytes in your body
Electrolytes such as sodium and potassium help with proper muscle contraction as well as general hydration. Profuse sweating during a long race, especially in hot and humid weather, may deplete your electrolytes and, in turn, cause muscle cramps. Consuming electrolyte-fortified sports drinks during a marathon or half-marathon may help prevent muscle cramps.
Do stretch and warm up exercises
To relieve the pain from side stitches, stop and raise your arms above your head. Stretch the opposite side the stitch. Repeat several times until the pain eases. You should spend at least 10 minutes stretching your calves, hamstrings and quadriceps muscles before a run to prevent muscle cramps.
Get a sports massage
Going for regular sports massages can help relax knotted muscles and promote better blood flow to the muscles. You are less likely to get muscle cramps if muscles are stretched and flexible.
Time your meals
Wait at least two hours after a meal before you go running. Avoid heavy meals and especially fatty and deep fried foods as they are harder to digest.
Build up speed gradually
Running too fast during the early part of your run may cause overexertion and muscle cramps. Build up your pace gradually.
What causes cramps during running?
The causes of cramps vary depending on the type of cramps:
Shallow breathing and poor digestion due to eating or drinking too much before a race can cause stomach cramps.
Dehydration, poor stretching and insufficient carbohydrate intake can cause severe muscle cramps in the legs and calves. Even seasoned runners who run too fast, too soon during a race are susceptible to muscle cramps. It’s a common reason why inexperienced runners fail to finish their marathon.
Side cramps or stitches
Shallow breathing or imbalance of electrolytes (sodium and potassium) may cause side cramps or stitches. They usually occur below the rib cage and in the lower right abdomen. The sharp, piercing pain caused by stitches is more common in beginner runners.
With our handy tips in mind, we hope your next running session is a cramp-free one! (or at least with cramps that are easy to relieve with our helpful tips #healthiersg