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Prevent muscle cramps in thighs while cycling

Author: admin / Comments: 0

How can you prevent inner thigh cramps on the bike when racing? These cramps can be so awful that sometimes you may find yourself in the situation of having to get off the bike because you can’t pedal anymore.

For starters it is very important to determine the cause of the cramps. Unfortunately though, it's quite difficult to know the exact cause of exercise-induced muscle cramps, and there is disagreement among experts as well. However here are the most common explanations:

Prevent muscle cramps
  • Dehydration
  • Electrolyte imbalance (diluted electrolytes pre-race or not consuming any electrolyte tablets or a drink containing electrolytes during the race)
  • The athlete is under-trained and not prepared for the event
  • Racing in very hot and humid conditions
  • Race efforts are higher than those produced training (endurance is solid, high pace is lacking in training)
  • The race course is very hilly compared to training courses
  • Race-day stress

Apparently a couple of researchers have theorized that muscle cramps associated with exercise are not caused by dehydration or electrolyte depletion. Schwellnus out of South Africa looked at a series of 18 cases and one small (n=10) case-control study. The conclusion was that "altered neuromuscular control" is the cause of cramps, but they decided more research was needed to verify this result.

Also, in a second research paper Schwellnus, Collins and Shang studied 433 Ironman participants. The participants were divided into two roughly equal groups, those with a history of cramps and those with no history of cramping. What the researchers found was that exercise muscle cramping was associated with exercising at a higher intensity during the race, an inherited risk - they had a family history of cramping and of tendon and/or ligament injury.

It seems that this research was later confirmed in another study as well that examined 210 Ironman triathletes. Out of the 210 triathletes, 43 reported cramping and 166 had no cramps. Researchers found there were no significant differences between the groups in the pre-race or post-race serum electrolyte concentrations or body weight changes. Cramps were associated with faster self-predicted race times and faster actual race times. Regression analysis found that faster overall race time, cycling time in particular, and a history of cramping were the only two independent factors linking those with cramps.

As it turns out though, beyond research, cyclists that have experienced cramping have reported relief from the cramps by consuming fluids, ingesting electrolyte tablets, stretching, and decreasing pace.

Have you had such experiences with muscle cramps while riding the bike? What did you do? Share with us in the comments below.


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