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More Training Info > How Can I Avoid Heat Cramps?

How Can I Avoid Heat Cramps?
By Courtenay Schurman, MS, CSCS

This time of year (summer) heat cramps can happen fairly frequently unless you are staying well hydrated, maintaining a good balance of electrolytes, and stretching whenever you start to feel cramping beginning. Heat cramps occur during or after intense physical activity, usually in the muscles you have been exercising. For alpinists, that usually manifests itself in the quadriceps (for those descending steep slopes) or calves (particularly for rock climbers or anyone using crampons going up steep slopes).

Usually cramping occurs from lack of adequate hydration and/or depletion of the body�s electrolytes (read: salt). While water is usually the first choice for hydration, if you tend to sweat copiously, you will want to bring salty snacks with you to avoid hyponatremia (see last month�s article at www.bodyresults.com/e2hyponatremia.asp). Sweating during adventures in the heat increases salt loss, resulting in muscle pain or spasm in the extremities or abdominals. By drinking plenty of liquid and increasing your intake of sodium both before AND during your outing, you can stave off most occurrences of cramps.

Finally, if you feel your muscles starting to cramp, reduce the intensity or speed of the particular movement that is bringing on the cramps. If it continues, stop the activity and stretch the affected muscle. If the cramping is in the calves, try performing the Standing 1-leg Calf stretch featured on www.bodyresults.com/s2calves.asp. If the cramps are occurring in the quadriceps, see www.bodyresults.com/e2patellofemoral.asp for suggestions of stretches for that large muscle group in the front of the thigh.


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