On Wednesday night at Can Too training one of the things I noticed the new swimmers talking about a lot was cramps.

All swimmers seem to suffer from foot, calf and/or leg cramps at one time or another, and some of us (definitely me) seem to be more prone to it than others. Luckily there are a few things you can do to minimise the frequency and the intensity of these nasty things.

  1. Drink plenty of water. When swimming you don’t get all the same signals for dehydration you get with land-based sports, so you need to pay special attention to hydration. Drink plenty throughout the day if you have swimming in the evening and always have a water bottle on end of the pool. This will be the biggest help in avoiding cramps.
  2. Magnesium, potassium. I’m not in the least bit qualified on this, but it seems popular an unlikely to cause harm. Bananas are supposedly great for this, but I personally can’t stand the slimy things so it’s only anecdotal. I do take a multi-vitamin most days, and it does seem to help a bit. I’ve also heard that some mineral waters are good.
  3. Technique. I know I’m guilty of this. Pushing off too hard from the wall, wearing fins (for drills or diving) and just generally swimming with tension or stiffness in my lower legs is a big culprit for me. Better technique will help with these.

If, for whatever reason, you still get a cramp, there are a few things you can do to try to get rid of it.

  1. Stretch. This is the one sure-fire cure. Unfortunately this means you do have to stop. And get yourself into some contorted positions at times.
  2. Relax. Given I get these kind of regularly, I would waste a lot of time if I had to stop and stretch every time. If they’re not sever, I focus on  the cramping muscle and consciously make myself relax that area. It takes a bit of willpower, but it does mean you don’t need to stop swimming. This is particularly important in a race because stopping means you a) lose time and b) are at risk of getting mown down by other swimmers.
  3. Work on technique. Spend some of your pool time concentrating on your feet and lower legs and work out if you are swimming with any of the muscles tensed. If you can get out of that habit you’re going to avoid cramps in the first place.

So hopefully, with a combination of all this information, cramps can be a thing of the past for all of us.

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