wikiHow to Avoid Cramps

Three Methods:Preventing Cramps Before a WorkoutAvoiding Cramps During and After Your WorkoutPreventing Cramps Using Other Methods

Muscle cramping is a painful experience. It can interrupt your workout, leaving you in discomfort. The good news is that there are several things you can do to avoid the cramping experience altogether.

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Method 1
Preventing Cramps Before a Workout

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    Prior to exercising, perform dynamic stretches. It is commonly advised that stretching before exercising can actually hurt you. That is the case with static stretching, or holding the muscles still in a stretched out position. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, involves deliberate motions which gently stretch your muscles in preparation for more rigorous exercise. Performing these exercises can greatly reduce the risk of hurting yourself or developing a cramp.[1]
  2. 2
    Begin by warming up your upper body. It is important to warm up every muscle group in your body prior to exercising. Some dynamic exercises you can do for the upper body include:
    • Arm circles. Extend your arms out to either side and gently rotate them in a tight, circular motion.
    • Shoulder rolls. Stand up straight and slowly rotate your shoulders backward. Try to touch your shoulders to your ears as you do this. After a few repetitions, switch directions and move your shoulders forward.
  3. 3
    Move on to your lower body. For a cardiovascular workout that involves running, jogging or hiking, it is crucial to warm up your legs. For weight training, your legs need to be prepared to do most of the heavy lifting. Here are some examples of dynamic leg exercises:
    • Lunges. With your hands on your hips, take one large step forward. As your foot touches the ground, drop your back knee straight down as far as you can without touching the ground. Pushing off your back foot, swing your back leg to the front, repeating the dropping motion with the other leg.
    • Knee lifts. Instead of dropping your knee downward, lift your opposite knee up to your chest as you take a step forward. This should look like a very exaggerated march.
  4. 4
    Finally, you need to warm up your back muscles. Back muscles are extremely prone to cramping during all types of exercise if they have not been properly warmed up. There are tons of different back exercises, including:
    • Torso twists. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms bent at a 90-degree angle. Gently twist your torso back and forth. This motion mobilizes your spine.
    • Standing back bends. With your hands on your hips and feet shoulder-width apart, lean back slightly, pressing your hip bones forward. Return your upper body to the upright position, and repeat several times.

Method 2
Avoiding Cramps During and After Your Workout

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    Take deep breaths. Make sure that you breathe continuously while exercising. If you hold your breath while exercising, you'll develop a cramp within a few minutes. As long as you provide enough oxygen for your body, then you'll prevent this type of cramp.
    • If you develop a cramp in your side, you are not breathing deeply enough to provide oxygen to your diaphragm. When you inhale, fill your lungs all the way to the bottom. Think of it as drawing air into your stomach rather than your chest. Your lungs are deep![2]
    • Take deep and complete breaths. Quick, shallow breaths do not fill your lungs all the way and can also cause you to become lightheaded. If you are having trouble taking deep breaths, slow down your pace for a few moments while your lungs catch up.
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    Drink water. Always provide your body with enough water, especially if you're sweating. When you sweat, you lose salt and water, which can throw off the balance of electrolytes and salt in your body. This causes your cells to swell, which causes calcium to stick to them, making the muscle contraction remain. You can prevent this by drinking enough water. Take regular water breaks, especially if you are doing a high-intensity workout.
    • It is crucial to continue hydrating after you exercise. Don't overdo it, but keep a water bottle handy for a few hours after your workout.
    • Take care not to drink too much water. Studies have shown that drinking water when you feel thirsty is a reliable way to hydrate your body sufficiently.
    • There are a number of sports drinks available that claim to provide extra hydration. These won't hurt you, but keep in mind that most brands do contain extra calories that you may not have accounted for in your eating plan. Most importantly, sports drinks do not improve your performance or provide any more hydration than regular water.[3]
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    Include a cool-down session after you exercise. A thorough "cool-down," sometimes called a "warm-down," includes 10-20 minutes of less intense exercise, some more dynamic stretching, followed by some static stretching. Basically, you want to do your whole workout routine backwards, but at a lower level of intensity. This will greatly reduce the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles, a major culprit of post-workout soreness.[4] Here are some basic static stretches:
    • Posterior capsule stretch. Stand or sit up straight and stretch one arm across your torso, using your other arm to bring it close to your body. You should feel a stretch across the outside of your arm.
    • Quadriceps stretch. Stand on one foot, reaching out behind you to hold your raised foot in your hand. Engage your abdominal muscles to keep your back straight. You should feel a stretch down the front of your thigh.

Method 3
Preventing Cramps Using Other Methods

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    Some foods contain vitamins, minerals, and elements that can make your muscles less prone to excessive cramping. Consider incorporating some of the following foods into your diet:
    • Foods with high levels of potassium.Some of these foods are, in order from least to greatest potassium level: avocados, potatoes, bananas, broccoli, orange juice, soybeans, apricots, and raisins. You can have these at any time, not just while exercising.
    • Whole milk. Milk has a large amount of vitamin D, which will reduce your chances of cramping. Have one to two glasses of milk each day to help you prevent cramps. As a bonus, all the calcium in whole milk will also contribute to healthy bone growth.
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    Get some sun. Lack of vitamin D can contribute to cramping; luckily, sunshine is chock full of vitamin D. Make sure to apply plenty of sunscreen before spending a day in the sun! Studies have shown that sunscreen application does not significantly diminish the body's absorption of vitamin D from sunlight. [5]
    • If you choose to exercise out in the sun, be extra sure to bring plenty of water.
    • Depending on your activity, consider bringing a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes.
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    Wait a while after eating before you exercise. Eating a large meal shortly before exercising can cause you to experience cramps. The amount of time you should wait between eating and working out depends on how much you have eaten. After a large meal, wait an hour or more. After a small meal or snack, give it 15-30 minutes.
    • If you prefer to perform rigorous exercise first thing in the morning, it is wise to have something small to eat first, such as a piece of fruit or yogurt. Exercising on an empty stomach can cause discomfort for some people.


  • Bring potassium enriched snacks to the gym.
  • Take advantage of the sun. Instead of having to sit in the sun on a day when you're busy, wait until your next trip to the beach, and soak it in. Make sure you always wear sunscreen.
  • Make milk part of your regular diet.


  • Excessive cramping or painful cramping can be a sign of complications in pregnancy, kidney disease, thyroid disease, restless leg syndrome (RLS), multiple sclerosis, hypokalemia, or hypocalcemia. See your doctor if the cramp continues for more than twelve hours, or if the cramp is unusually painful for an extended period of time. Also see your doctor if you're getting cramps very often.

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Categories: Cramps