Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cramps on the Run

Running tests who you are: your desire, your commitment, your willingness to sacrifice, your passion, your body, your mind and especially your spirit.  As a runner, I have encountered many difficulties.  IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, lost several toenails, sore knees, dehydration, pulled muscles and a pinched sciatic nerve.  Those all hurt in one form or another but the most frustrating injury one is when I get a cramp.  Several years ago I pinched my sciatic nerve (the worst pain I have ever experienced) and since then, my right calf has a tendency to cramp. I am aware of this and take measures to control it.  I know what to do and more importantly what not to do in order to avoid the cramping.  

Yesterday I went to run a quick ten miles.  I had my warm-up planned and knew when I was ready to increase the pace.  I encountered rain, wind and hail.  For me that is motivational as I figure anyone can run on a nice day but it takes dedication (or foolishness) to run in nasty weather.  My pace was quick, legs felt good and my breathing was well under control.  At mile 5.31 I felt a twinge in my left calf, not the right one, not the one prone to cramping, but the good one, the calf I can rely on. And then, boom! A cramp.  I slowed the pace and tried to stretch it out.  I walked a bit but that did not help.  I was able to jog very slowly until mile 7 and then walked the rest of the way home.  I had to cut my run short and was much slower than I had wanted.   

What causes a cramp?  Dehydration, lack of nutrition, over use of the muscle and several other factors.  My hydration and food intake for the week were not good.  I'm pretty sure that was the issue.  

How do you treat a cramp?  When I got home I soaked my legs in an Epsom salt bath, used a foam roller and lacrosse ball and then put on some compression socks.  Oh, and rest.  Which is, for me, the most difficult.

Now, when you are going through life and get a "cramp", that is, an experience that forces you to slow down and maybe call for help, how do you get through it?  Maybe soak yourself in God's Word (there is nothing sweeter), talk to a trusted friend for some external perspective and get a hug from a loved one.  Oh, and some rest.

Keep Running!

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