Fitness Q+A: How to prevent cramps

You know that stabbing pain that stops you mid-stride and leaves you breathless? Cramps are the bane of my existence (and every runner everywhere). So I went on a mission to find out what causes muscle and stomach cramps and how can they be prevented. Fitness pro and personal trainer Dave Smith gave me the inside scoop on everything to do with cramps.

 ©iStockphoto.com/Steve Debenport

KD: Is there any way to prevent getting cramps when you’re exercising?

DS: “Stomach cramping does not have a definitive cause since there are so many factors that come into play during a run or a workout, however pre-run eating can certainly help or hinder the problem. Eating too much food, or eating foods that are likely to cause bloating such as dairy or fruit, can hamper a runner’s ability to breathe deeply. Running with short, shallow breaths is often linked to stomach cramps.

At the same time, it is important to eat something before a run, especially those lasting 10K or more. Muscle cramping due to dehydration or a lack of electrolytes the blood is more likely to occur when running on an empty stomach.

Studies have shown that experimenting with the pre-run meal can be an effective way to reduce cramping. Eating a small meal 30 to 60 minutes before running seems to have the best results. Complex carbs such as whole wheat bread or rolled oats are easily digested and provide ample energy so these types of food tend to be a good choices.

If a stomach cramp does hit there are ways to make it go away. Slow down or stop running, take slow, deep breaths, and apply pressure to the cramping area. It should only take a minute or two before you are running off cramp-free.”

Dave Smith is a certified personal trainer who was recently named Canadian Fitness Professional of the Year. He specializes in bodyweight exercises and interval training that can be done anywhere. Check out his work at makeyourbodywork.com.

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