Cramps when racing

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Cramps when racing

Postby mikesbytes » Sat Oct 26, 2013 10:14 pm

What are the common reasons for cramping durning racing?
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by BNA » Sat Oct 26, 2013 10:45 pm

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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby sogood » Sat Oct 26, 2013 10:45 pm

Dehydration
Electrolyte imbalance
Inadequate warm up
Over exertion
Trauma/injury

Add: Some nebulous neuromuscular irregularity - Hard to define, hard to "treat".
Last edited by sogood on Sun Oct 27, 2013 9:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby thearthurdog » Sun Oct 27, 2013 5:22 am

I recently discovered that core weaknesses in terms of engaging my glutes was causing too high of a workload for my hamstrings, and in turn, come cramping.

But in terms of your question, I agree with sogood's list. Especially over exertion as many people only cramp when they race.
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby donncha » Sun Oct 27, 2013 7:07 am

They discussed this on The Bike Lane recently. According to the sports scientists at the VIS, dehydration and electrolyte balance don't make any difference. Main thing is fitness.

People typically cramp when doing something they're not fit enough for.

Once their fitness improves to the level demanded by the task, no more cramping.


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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby sogood » Sun Oct 27, 2013 7:34 am

Odd view from VIS. Be interesting to know their angle and the cohort they base their view on. Otherwise, fitness is a pretty generic term. It's hard to say those pro riders aren't fit. Mike is also incredibly "fit".
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby vander » Sun Oct 27, 2013 8:37 am

More that they are riding above the level they can handle, Scott Mcgrory agreed and said he only got them early season when he was a bit underdone.

Also they said that the evidence is mixed for electrolytes and dehydration and there is no conclusive evidence proving its either of those. They also question marked Magnesium because they cant develop a study to adequately decrease the participants Mg without doing anything too nasty to them.
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby sogood » Sun Oct 27, 2013 8:53 am

A lot of the fundamental understanding on risk factors on cramping came out of clinical and basic science physiology literature. At the end of the day, it's likely a multi-aetiology condition and may vary with the subject and activity involved eg. Elderly in bed and Cyclist on a hard climb, all leading to a common pathway of muscle tetany.

In Mike's case, he'll probably need to consider when the cramp started in the race. The specific cause in the case may well be very different whether it's near the start or much later in the long race. If science can't identify one single cause, then Mike will just have to work out which of the many associated factors that's most likely in his case and try to resolve it by trial and error.

To add: VIS's cohort of study subjects are most likely to be elite sports people in peak age group, undergoing certain high level sports related activities. If that's true, then their views and conclusion need to be recalibrated for the general population which most of us are.
Last edited by sogood on Sun Oct 27, 2013 9:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby foo on patrol » Sun Oct 27, 2013 8:58 am

My problem was low calcium levels and that was from the Dr. Did a course of tablets for a month and was all good after that for a few years. :wink:

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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby Derny Driver » Sun Oct 27, 2013 1:05 pm

donncha wrote:They discussed this on The Bike Lane recently. According to the sports scientists at the VIS, dehydration and electrolyte balance don't make any difference. Main thing is fitness.

People typically cramp when doing something they're not fit enough for.

Once their fitness improves to the level demanded by the task, no more cramping.


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Correct.
Cramps are caused by muscle fatigue.
http://www.sportsscientists.com/2007/11 ... -part-iii/
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby winstonw » Sun Oct 27, 2013 2:27 pm

hmmmm... a few holes in these conclusions still.....am sure the picture will clear after a few more years of more focused testing....

neural activity isn't impervious to the electrolyte soup in which it operates!
and it is foolhardy to presume serum electrolyte state reflects local muscle electrolyte state.

the only cramps I have had in the last 5 years occur around 20mins-2hrs after a longer sweatier ride, after I lie down and drift off for a bit. When I go to get up, I'll get cramps in adductors, calfs, or quads. This definitely is more likely when I haven't drank enough before during or after a ride. I can also get it in calfs, when I am lying down and stretch legs out and point feet and toes, shortening the calfs.
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby sogood » Sun Oct 27, 2013 3:41 pm

Derny Driver wrote:Correct.
Cramps are caused by muscle fatigue.

Need to define "fatigue" here. For common use of the term, this conclusion would not cover those bed cramps and cramps at the start of a high intensity activity eg. Off the starting block. So wouldn't be so categorical when used on the general population.

Note. Even the authors have stated in the title... "A novel theory". So don't jump to conclusion just as yet.
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby Aussiebullet » Sun Oct 27, 2013 4:05 pm

mikesbytes wrote:What are the common reasons for cramping durning racing?


During racing, almost certainly from riding above your current conditioning, without power data it will be hard to show but almost no one cramps if they are finding the racing easy i.e. within their coditioning, average power is a poor indicator,
but NP, and watts per/kilo surge count and total mins at various percentages above FTP will really open your eyes and help prepare and build up appropriate matches to store and use for certain events.
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby foo on patrol » Sun Oct 27, 2013 4:08 pm

winstonw wrote:hmmmm... a few holes in these conclusions still.....am sure the picture will clear after a few more years of more focused testing....

neural activity isn't impervious to the electrolyte soup in which it operates!
and it is foolhardy to presume serum electrolyte state reflects local muscle electrolyte state.

the only cramps I have had in the last 5 years occur around 20mins-2hrs after a longer sweatier ride, after I lie down and drift off for a bit. When I go to get up, I'll get cramps in adductors, calfs, or quads. This definitely is more likely when I haven't drank enough before during or after a ride. I can also get it in calfs, when I am lying down and stretch legs out and point feet and toes, shortening the calfs.


This was my problem for the majority of times but did cramp on two occasions in races. :( It all stopped after taking the calcium tables! :wink:

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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby Duck! » Sun Oct 27, 2013 4:20 pm

donncha wrote:They discussed this on The Bike Lane recently. According to the sports scientists at the VIS, dehydration and electrolyte balance don't make any difference. Main thing is fitness.

People typically cramp when doing something they're not fit enough for.

Once their fitness improves to the level demanded by the task, no more cramping.

I find that to be complete crap, quite frankly. I ride XC MTB, including 6+ hour enduros, HPV races (generally one-hour stints), and I sail a high-performance off-the beach catamaran. I'm least likely to suffer cramps on the MTB, even when my bike fitness is sub-par, because I can stay on top of hydration. I train in the HPV weekly for about eight months of the year, so the idea of "not being fit enough for it" just doesn't wash, because with the high interior temperatures that can be experienced, the body simply cannot handle the fluid intake required to keep pace with the losses through sweat. On the cat I'll sometimes find my hammies trying to cramp later in the day, usually when kneeling on the tramp deck pulling the spinnaker in, again because the demands of sailing the thing make it difficult to maintain optimum hydration, which includes electrolytes.
I had a thought, but it got run over as it crossed my mind.
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby g-boaf » Sun Oct 27, 2013 4:31 pm

It happens to me in the following conditions:

- most likely on hot days if I don't drink enough
- if I'm really exerting myself - but this is more rare. I had this on Friday night - pain in the quad, left leg. It wasn't sharp pain, just sore. It's still a bit sore today, but I did nearly 60km without problem.

But it's more rare. I think it's mostly a conditioning thing for me.
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby sogood » Sun Oct 27, 2013 4:45 pm

When a bit of evidence is present in different factors, then it's most likely to be a multi-factorial condition. Scientists are always searching for that holy grail of one single aetiology and mechanism, and the motor-neural theory is trying to explain the process at a far lower and specific level than the other factors being talked about. Reading it, it's important to differentiate this motor-neural mechanism and "fatigue" per se. At this stage, the motor-neural mechanism sounds plausible but many factors may still contribute to it, with fatigue being but one of many. A lot more work is needed to understand the obvious mismatches out there and even "fatigue" is a rather nebulous term. Not as if we are able to rewire the neural pathways and reset the trigger points for the Golgi apparatus directly. Be a good baby, daddy will feed you lots of H2O, Ca2+, Mg2+, tell you bed time stories and a nice sleep, just don't throw a tantrum when daddy is racing... Please!
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby winstonw » Sun Oct 27, 2013 5:43 pm

foo on patrol wrote:This was my problem for the majority of times but did cramp on two occasions in races. :( It all stopped after taking the calcium tables! :wink:

Foo


I've not cramped during a ride for over 8 years, possibly more. And yet, in that time, I've challenged myself beyond my limits heaps of times, and grown in power output and endurance. (I generally ride with guys who are stronger than me, or solo)

I've found I honestly don't get the post ride cramps when I'm hydrated adequately (with electrolyte solution).

I agree with where sogood is coming from. muscle 'fatigue' needs to be defined. in my books fatigue is very much rooted in ion concentrations and ion transport systems across cell membranes. My view is cramp will be shown to be local dysfunction of nerve/muscle due to 2 inputs:
- loss of intramuscular ion balance.
- the losses occur in muscles that have experienced moderate to intense sustained efforts.

I don't necessarily agree that one has to exert themselves beyond their conditioning, as I know too many very experienced cyclists who cramp periodically, and many who stopped cramps with better electrolyte hydration strategy +/- improved diet.

One confounder not mentioned in the article is unilateral cramping. I have seen this in several clients, and I put those incidences down to irritation of the nerve roots in the lumbar spine, which thereby prevent some cycling muscles from relaxing well, which inteferes with intramuscular fluid turnover and....ion balance!
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby ft_critical » Sun Oct 27, 2013 8:22 pm

Distance plus intensity for me. No amount of drink or magnesium can fix it. Only conditioning - which I have proved works for me, no cramping this year.
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby sogood » Sun Oct 27, 2013 8:53 pm

ft_critical wrote:Only conditioning - which I have proved works for me, no cramping this year.

N=1, could have been global warming (or cooling) also. ;)
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby mikesbytes » Sun Oct 27, 2013 9:42 pm

There's a lot of different reasons why people cramp and some of us cramp where other don't.

Solutions to problems (using sogoods list)
Dehydration
Drink more. Sounds simple, but how do you know if your drunk enough?

Electrolyte imbalance
I'm assuming this is Magnesium, Potassium, etc etc. Is this a problem just during the race and therefor can be fixed by using a electrolyte mix, tablet etc during the race

Inadequate warm up
Can we see this as a predictor based on how close to the start of the race the cramp occurred?

Over exertion

This is the category that is being discussed most in this thread. If you are hitting the limit of what the muscle can deliver, then how do you train the muscle to deliver more?

Trauma/injury
Don't race till your body has recovered
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby vander » Sun Oct 27, 2013 10:12 pm

Add caffeine too much can cause cramps (probably associated with dehydration)
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Cramps when racing

Postby sogood » Sun Oct 27, 2013 11:50 pm

So when did you get the cramp? Being unsupported, did you compromise your supply needs? On a long endurance event of that duration, especially when hot, dehydration and significant salt loss is common even when actively replaced. Experience, empirical formula with input from published sports science research are your guide. Always a guess element when on the road. If you have more pee than less, than you are likely to be on top. Given the compromise in absorption during intense exercise, need to drink small but regular. Big wash downs are no good.

Putting the discussion on cramp aetiology aside, hydration and electrolytes are critical to general body performance. I recall that they have been widely linked to body endurance (an inverse term to fatigue) by researchers. Wait, did someone say fatigue causes cramps? ;)
Last edited by sogood on Mon Oct 28, 2013 6:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby thearthurdog » Mon Oct 28, 2013 5:56 am

vander wrote:Add caffeine too much can cause cramps (probably associated with dehydration)

A lot of research out there disagrees with this.
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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby donncha » Mon Oct 28, 2013 7:27 am

http://www.sportsscientists.com/2007/11 ... p-teasers/

The Sports Scientists did a series of posts looking at cramping, and another, shorter one on hydration.

Both are worth a read.

Summary:
Some people are just 'crampers', prone to cramping.
Fatigue is major reason.
In terms of sodium levels, there's little difference between drinking water or sports drinks.
Research has shown no significant difference in electrolyte levels or hydration in champers vs non-crampers.


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Re: Cramps when racing

Postby sogood » Mon Oct 28, 2013 7:32 am

Articles have already been linked Derny Driver's post with ensuing discussions.
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