It has taken me a while for me to notice, but whereas I usually ride the fine line between good stretch and debilitating cramp first thing in a morning, as I woke yesterday morning it dawned on me that the usually dependable potential for cramp had gone.
Fantastic…but how come?!
One piece of advice I have been given recently is to drink tonic water. Tonic water contains a form of quinine as a flavour component, and its effects for the treatment of cramp are well known (apparently – it was news to me). Armed with this new knowledge, the next day I left the local supermarket 48p lighter and with a bottle in my grasp thinking “well, what’s to lose?” (apart from the obvious 48p, I suppose). To be honest, I’d not given it much thought since – I just had a swig once or twice a day and after only a few days hey presto! Cramps no more.
So why doesn’t everyone know about this – or is it just me?
Well a bit of post-‘treatment’ research has uncovered a word of warning.
According to patient.co.uk there are health risks associated with taking excessive amounts of quinine. In fact, the FDA in the States has strongly advised against the use of quinine to treat leg cramps. I don’t think the mouthful a day I was consuming constitutes as “excessive”, so I’m relaxed about a swig here or there but it’s something to be mindful of nonetheless.
More to the point, I think, is to look at cause rather than cure. The exact causes are something of an area of debate, it appears, but Runners World associates the potential causes of cramps to be:
- Fatigue. Muscles shocked by sudden excessive exercise lead to a greater risk of ‘malfunction’. Massage is a good treatment.
- Inadequate warm-up. Mmm…I still think I’m guilty of not warming up properly before a run. I don’t think I’m alone.
- Too many sugary treats. Another reason to be glad I don’t have a sweet-tooth.
- Climate Change – bloody carbon emissions again. Oh, it means exposing your muscles to extremes of temperature. I see.
- Salt Imbalance. The focus here being on replacing the body’s electrolytes after a run with a proper sports drink, not just water.
From the list above, I think I have most of the potential causes covered, with the exception of warm-ups perhaps (a little dynamic-stretching beforehand and a gentle, rolling-start maybe isn’t enough…)
I’m sure the massage I had helped to free off any snarled up muscle fibres and so maybe the tonic water really was a waste of 48p after all. To be honest, I don’t care! I’m simply glad that for the time being my cramps appear to have gone and I can at least for now retire them to join the list of Running Ailments I’ve Had and Found a Way to Overcome – even if they appear in the sub-category of Somehow.
You live and learn, as the older and wiser gratefully keep reminding me…