When muscles are in a contracted state for long periods of time, cramping may occur. While this is usually a minor nuisance for most athletes, it can be especially concerning for swimmers, who may find themselves struggling to get back to dry land where they can rest. If you regularly experience swimming cramps, consider the following.
What Causes Cramps?
Most people attribute muscle cramps to electrolyte loss related to sweating. In reality, however, there is very little research to support this theory. These days, more and more experts blame muscle fatigue for cramping. As muscles get tired, interior mechanisms begin misfiring causing the tissue to over-contract and bunch up. This causes pain and limited mobility – an especially big problem for people stuck in a body of water.
Muscle cramps affect people differently based on their genetics, age and activity levels. That said, you can limit cramping by taking the following steps:
- Hydrate: While cramping isn’t necessarily associated with fluid loss, proper hydration will help your muscles function more efficiently.
- Eat the right foods: Potassium and sodium are important for swimmers. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, focusing heavily on tomatoes, bananas, potatoes, white beans and orange juice.
- Try pickle juice: Studies have linked pickle juice with a reduced risk of cramping. While they don’t know the exact reason, experts suspect vinegar may disrupt reflex commotion by activating nerves in the muscle tissue.
Things to Consider
If you’re relatively out of shape, you’re more at risk for muscle cramps. When starting a regular swimming regimen, start slowly to give your body time to adjust. You can also do strength training exercises, focusing on muscle groups which have cramped in the past.
Stretching is also an important way to reduce the risk of cramps. For best results, don’t just stretch prior to swimming; instead, stretch your muscles several times throughout the day to promote greater flexibility and nerve function.