Home > Ask Coach > My hamstrings cramp up!

My hamstrings cramp up!

Mark-

Do you do anything with sweat rate and content analysis?  My biggest challenge that started in my mid 30’s is hamstring cramping during endurance events.  It started in Boston 2004 at mile 24 where the hammy just completely seizes up on me.  It’s probably happened at least a dozen times over the years including Devilman this year, which probably cost me 3 minutes in the run – I’m still a little bitter about it.  I’ve done a ton of reading and research on this topic including reading Tim Noakes Lore of Running book.  I believe the cramping is related to a combination of dehydration and muscle fatigue.  The only thing that really helps is drinking a ton of fluid loaded with electrolytes.  I know that I have a high sweat rate and probably lose a lot of sodium via sweat, but have no idea how much.  Just curious if you’ve done any research in this area and can offer any assistance/advice in this area? 

RJ
Dear RJ-

As you probably already know, by reading Noakes—who by the way is excellent–he is well published and the “Lore of Running” I bought many moons ago and still refer to it, cramping can be caused by 4 individual scenerios or in combination:  1. not enough stretching. 2. depletion of sodium/potassium/magnesium. 3. dehydration (focus on water–the muscles perform best in a fluid medium & fluid in muscle can be as high as 80%) 4. Training not matching race conditions (intensity)
 
Weigh yourself following an hr run (16 oz= 1 pound) if used 8 oz of fluid, need is 24 oz per hr or 8oz every 20 min. This calculation is used often but does not take into account pre fluid intake.
 
I recommend to my athletes to sip on water (carry bottle during day) starting 3 days prior to a race —especially a hot summer event–Also don’t hesitate to use the salt shaker during meal intake the days prior to the race. I don’t recommend this as an everyday thing. We know the relationship between sodium and hypertension. Athletes are different in alot of ways.
 
I would need to research the sodium measurement issue….you raise an interesting question that I am sure Dr. Noakes has researched extensively. My wheels will be turning (don’t mind the bicycle pun) for a couple days considering your question:)
 
I hope that helped a bit.
mk

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