We have all faced the inevitable muscle cramps while biking. They can hit right in the middle of a great ride and practically send you to the ground. The cramps often hit the large muscles of the legs first, but can strike practically any muscles in the body. Scientists do not quite know the reason why cramps strike.
The main theory as to why muscle cramps strike is due to low electrolyte levels and fatigue. Some individuals are more susceptible to cramps than others. If you are one of the unlucky ones, there are a number of tips you can implement to prevent muscle cramps while bicycling.
Tips to Prevent Muscle Cramps While Bicycling
Don’t train too hard, too fast. We all want to meet our goals, and often that means pushing our bodies to the next level. It is important, however, to not push too fast. Rapid changes in training levels can overstress your body and make you more prone to muscle cramps. Slowly adjust your training regimen and never push to the point of overexertion. Listen to your body – if you are struggling harder than ever before… stop!
Take rest days. Rest days are important to allow your muscles time to heal. If you have biked for 10 or more days straight without a rest day, take a day (or three!) off.
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Fuel appropriately. I know I preach this all the time, but proper fueling is crucial. Low electrolyte levels often cause cramps, so if your body isn’t receiving enough sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, or magnesium), you may end up in pain. If you find your muscles getting rubbery during your rides, or you are guzzling Gatorade after training, you are not fueling appropriate before and during your rides. Bars and gels are handy, but there are plenty of nutritious ways to fuel up.
Be aware of dehydration and hyperhydration. Drink appropriately to avoid muscle cramps, but be careful not to guzzle too much all at once. Be properly hydrated before you begin your ride, and drink regularly throughout when you are thirsty. Let the color of your urine be a gauge of proper hydration. Your urine should be pale yellow or the color of straw. If it’s deep yellow, you may not be drinking enough. If it is consistently clear and you are noticing more muscle cramps than usual, it’s possible you are drinking too much.
Stretch regularly, especially before rides. Scientists aren’t quite sure why stretching helps prevent leg cramps, but there is evidence that it does. Stretch your body regularly, especially throughout your hips, trunk, and legs.
When all else fails, try pickle juice. Some bikers swear by pickle juice for preventing muscle cramps while biking. There’s nothing wrong with eating pickles or drinking a little pickle juice and seeing if you benefit.
If you consistently experience muscle cramps and you have tried the tips listed above, check with your physician. Some medical conditions can make individuals more prone to muscle cramps.
Preventing muscle cramps are part of riding safely and effectively. If you are involved in a bicycle crash, contact a bicycle accident attorney who knows biking inside out!