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Old 01-17-14, 04:11 PM   #1
Allegheny Jet 
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Cramping in the calves

Over the past two years I've been having more frequent cramping in my calves during hard training or rides. The left side is more prone but the right side will also cramp if I begin to protect the left side my putting more force on the right leg. The issues occur later in workouts or rides and is partly due to me sweating profusely. I have been able to preventively take Hammer electrolyte capsules for races and long training sessions by opening them up and putting 3 capsules in each bottle of Gatorade. Recently I've been getting the cramps at indoor cycling classes and while riding the rollers for longer efforts (1+ hr @ 100+ rpm) at home. Changes of pace or high cadence will bring the cramping on. Recently I was on a outdoor 2.5 hr fix gear ride @ Z3 intensity and at around 2 hrs the cramping occurred, and at the last indoor training session I had to sit out the last 25' of the 2 hr workout that had various HC and OG drills due to both calves cramping. On the road I can usually work through the cramps by going out of the saddle for a bit.

A little about me: I'm 61 and train to race Crits, Track and RR's in my age group and Master's fields. I am 5' 11" and weigh around 190 lbs and drop down lower in-season. I am pretty strong and probably have a body fat >10%. I have been racing for 6 years and have a coach develops my the training program. Three years ago I had my left ankle fused and that is why I believe the problem originates on the left side. I do have a core/resistance program that I do from Dec until July that includes strength training. I eat a healthy diet and don't avoid sodium or salts when choosing food.

The cramping only happened once in racing where two years ago in the Barry Roubaix Gravel Road Race I began to get a cramp near the end of the race after we had to be off the bike for a few hundred yards. I was able to work around the cramp by focusing on using my right side and going OTS.

Any one have any ideas on preventing the cramping or remedies to help the body overcome them?
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Old 01-17-14, 04:31 PM   #2
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Tums, regular strength, and the brand name. They work for everyone I've tried them on so far. Take at the first twinge. If that doesn't stop it, take another. Two have always done it for me. The effect is in seconds, not minutes. I have no idea why they work, but they do.

My calf cramping has always been a result of undertraining them. When I started doing sets of 30 one-legged calf raises a couple times a week, the problem went away and never returned. I focus on a full extension. But since you have a fused ankle, I don't get why that calf cramps. That foot would not seem to need the support of the gastrocenimius.

Google exercises for that muscle and you'll get a lot of hits.

Other than that, something to do with bike fit? Which again I don't get because of the fused ankle. Seems it would either work or not work. In these things, it's often the saddle being too high, so the calf doesn't get enough action, toes being always pointed. But probably not in your case, except of course that calf still not getting enough action.
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Old 01-17-14, 04:45 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply. I'll try the Tums. Interesting that it will work at onset. I do get little warnings that the cramp is coming soon. I do have flexibility of the foot bones that I believe have assisted in a more normal movement and with a shoe on it looks as if my ankle is moving. There is a noticeable difference between the two lower legs in calve size. The first year after the fusing I would sometimes get twinges and pulling deep inside my lower leg when in bed, especially after a very hard ride or race.

I don't think it's bike fit unless my road, track, fixie and cross bikes are all set up wrong. I don't recall having the issue on the mtb, however most rides are not long sustained and HC efforts. I have had professional fittings on the road and track bikes.
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Old 01-17-14, 04:53 PM   #4
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Thanks for the reply. I'll try the Tums. Interesting that it will work at onset. I do get little warnings that the cramp is coming soon. I do have flexibility of the foot bones that I believe have assisted in a more normal movement and with a shoe on it looks as if my ankle is moving. There is a noticeable difference between the two lower legs in calve size. The first year after the fusing I would sometimes get twinges and pulling deep inside my lower leg when in bed, especially after a very hard ride or race.

I don't think it's bike fit unless my road, track, fixie and cross bikes are all set up wrong. I don't recall having the issue on the mtb, however most rides are not long sustained and HC efforts. I have had professional fittings on the road and track bikes.
I put them in one of those Hammer squeeze purses, then under the shorts leg or in a jersey pocket.
http://www.hammernutrition.com/produ...ent-organizers

Have you talked to your fitter about it?
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Old 01-17-14, 05:02 PM   #5
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I put them in one of those Hammer squeeze purses, then under the shorts leg or in a jersey pocket.
http://www.hammernutrition.com/produ...ent-organizers

Have you talked to your fitter about it?
Thanks for the link. I will speak to the fitter although I don't believe I'm reaching for the pedals.
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Old 01-18-14, 03:59 PM   #6
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Funny I saw this and today I had right calf strain after 25 miles and kept on riding till the pain went away but after 50 miles of hard riding (20-28mphr) that pain came back again. I'll try tums next time and see if it helps.
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Old 01-18-14, 06:17 PM   #7
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No silver bullets here but stretching. Are the cramps associated with the fused ankle? If so, it may need more stretching.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3445088/
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Old 01-18-14, 06:20 PM   #8
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How's your hydration? Yeah, I know, recent studies seem to indicate that cramping might not have anything to do with hydration ... and yet, when I'm dehydrated, I cramp. I'll cramp walking down the street after work if I haven't drunk much water during the day.

When I start to feel the warning signs of a cramp, or the beginnings of a cramp, I start to drink, and drink, and drink ... and it goes away. I also take electrolytes to balance the drinking.
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Old 01-18-14, 06:51 PM   #9
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I agree with Machka, if I don't drink enough I cramp and for me those cramps are almost always in my calves. A good electrolyte replacement drink may also help.
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Old 01-18-14, 07:09 PM   #10
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Cleat placement? How far forward or aft is yours?

As a consequence of a fitting I'm running my cleats full aft on my size 51s. They're no where near as far aft as Steve Hogg's mid foot placement, but, as far aft as the standard slots and screw placement allow. I've not suffered a calf cramp since. It did however impact on my high rpm cadence.

One of the other interesting things I experienced on my return was thigh cramps related to too tight short hems limiting circulation in my legs. I cut the inside bar tacking that attached the ends of the elastic in my shorts and those cramps also disappeared.

Now I'm simply subject to muscular fatigue cramping. Which will probably be best cured by more time on the bike.
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Old 01-18-14, 07:49 PM   #11
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I get that quite a bit also but mostly when I lay down to sleep. I use compression socks when I ride so that is no longer an issue but it certainly was at one point. I have been trying to eat more food with potassium. I have tried calcium/ mag supplements and can't say they have helped.

Sliding the cleats back sounds like solid advice.
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Old 01-18-14, 08:09 PM   #12
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Cleat placement? How far forward or aft is yours?

As a consequence of a fitting I'm running my cleats full aft on my size 51s. They're no where near as far aft as Steve Hogg's mid foot placement, but, as far aft as the standard slots and screw placement allow. I've not suffered a calf cramp since. It did however impact on my high rpm cadence.

One of the other interesting things I experienced on my return was thigh cramps related to too tight short hems limiting circulation in my legs. I cut the inside bar tacking that attached the ends of the elastic in my shorts and those cramps also disappeared.

Now I'm simply subject to muscular fatigue cramping. Which will probably be best cured by more time on the bike.
Yes, poor circulation is one of the causes of leg cramps. But, it doesn't have to caused by tight hems. It can be caused by the same thing that limits blood flow to the heart: clogged arteries. In fact, most cardiologists now recognize that clogged arteries are not just a cardiac issue -- but a systemic one. That is, if one artery is clogged, there are probably more...

If you do not find other causes of your cramping, you may want to have a vascular study done to see if you may have some limited circulation down there. And you might want to do it not only for the leg cramps -- but because leg cramps can also be a warning sign that you are about to get heart cramps as well...
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Old 01-19-14, 01:26 AM   #13
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Yes, poor circulation is one of the causes of leg cramps. But, it doesn't have to caused by tight hems. It can be caused by the same thing that limits blood flow to the heart: clogged arteries. In fact, most cardiologists now recognize that clogged arteries are not just a cardiac issue -- but a systemic one. That is, if one artery is clogged, there are probably more...

If you do not find other causes of your cramping, you may want to have a vascular study done to see if you may have some limited circulation down there. And you might want to do it not only for the leg cramps -- but because leg cramps can also be a warning sign that you are about to get heart cramps as well...
Thank you for your concern.

I'm reasonably comfortable about my cardiac health. As a consequence of a father who had an atrial septal defect detected late in life I have had the opportunity to have extensive discussions with cardiologist and about the lack of history in our family. As a consequence of concerns with peforming deep decompression scuba dives and the desire to modify and optimise our decompression schedules I underwent reasonably robust cardiac examinations, including intravenous bubble study. As a consequence of our immigration and ultimate application for permanent residency and normal annual check ups, both my wife and i have a history of our respective blood work. Which has consistantly been within the normal range. Although there was a period while living in Bermuda that we decided to make an conscientious decission to decrease our consumption of pate, soft cheese and red wine.

But, worth noting for anyone that isn't sure about their condition.
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Old 01-20-14, 02:38 PM   #14
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I found the magic bullet last year....I added a magnesium supplement to my daily regime. Look into it for a ton of good it does our bodies. With the way we eat nowadays, that is a critical mineral that is missing, I guess. Before I got the supplement, I found that the magnesium spray worked wonders. Don't use it now, cuz I take the supplement. When I'd cramp at night, I'd spray it on and the cramp was gone. It also works for my sore muscles and aches, instantly. Who knew?!
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Old 01-21-14, 09:05 PM   #15
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At my last indoor workout I filled my two bottles with water and 3 opened electrolyte capsules in each. I also put 6 Tums in a plastic snack bag and put it in my pocket. Once again about 2/3's way through the workout I felt the cramping coming on and I took 3 Tums. They melt almost instantly in the mouth and after that I did not feel the early signs or endure any cramping. Next hard workout is tomorrow evening and I will once again have a baggie of Tums. I hope this continues to be the "fix".

Thanks everyone for the replies.
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Old 01-21-14, 09:50 PM   #16
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At my last indoor workout I filled my two bottles with water and 3 opened electrolyte capsules in each. I also put 6 Tums in a plastic snack bag and put it in my pocket. Once again about 2/3's way through the workout I felt the cramping coming on and I took 3 Tums. They melt almost instantly in the mouth and after that I did not feel the early signs or endure any cramping. Next hard workout is tomorrow evening and I will once again have a baggie of Tums. I hope this continues to be the "fix".

Thanks everyone for the replies.
Downside: those puppies contain calcium, and lots of calcium is not totally the best thing in the world unless sweats really a lot. So I take one and see what happens. If I get another twinge, I take another, etc. Most of the time, one is enough for me. However, I only cramp when I overdo it, so training fixes that. I seldom cramp during the season, only when I ramp it up early, like now.

I'd try it without the electrolytes. Food is full of electrolytes and IME one doesn't get depleted until one has sweated hard for a few hours. After every hard ride or session, I do take a 500 cal/250 mag capsule. That fixes after-ride cramps for me. I think the magnesium is more important than the calcium there. OTOH lots of magnesium gives me the runs. YMMV.
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Old 01-25-14, 11:15 AM   #17
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I also have suffered with calf cramps. I moved cleats way back by actually lenghtening the slots in the shoes with a round file; I always carry Tums in a tiny plastic bag; drink plenty of fluids; and finally, use Sport Legs tabs. Cramps have all but stopped.
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Old 01-30-14, 07:03 PM   #18
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I'd also have a chiropractor/PT check your hip and back alignment. I got cramps in my calf for years only on the right leg.
PT said your sciatic runs all down the length of our legs so most people don't connect hips/low back to the calves. I did major damage to right hip in high school wrestling so when I feel the sciatic acting up, I work on the calf stretches also.
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Old 02-03-14, 02:09 PM   #19
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As said before, stretching/ yoga. I like bananas too.
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