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emeraldisles's avatar

How can I run longer without cramps?

Asked by emeraldisles (1939 points ) July 28th, 2012

Well I do go out to run, but sometimes take a power walking break, and then start running again. I hate side stitches and cramps! I want to be able to run for a full hour without getting them. It just seems I jog, sprint, power walk, repeat. Also, want to know the best way to land with the foot so there is less impact. I land mid foot and then roll up to my toes. By the way, I’m almost 6 ft. I would like to be able to do 10k’s.

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13 Answers

bookish1's avatar

I’m not a runner, but I find I get cramps in my legs and chest from working out (cycling) if I am low on potassium. Eat at least one banana every day!

JLeslie's avatar

I am not a doctor.

Cramps in your side are probably caused by eating too close to the time you run. Running right after having caffeine might also aggravate the problem, but not necessarily. Also running near the time you are going to have a bowel movement (if you are regular) might increase your chances of a side stitch. For whatever reason your digestive system probably is not slowing down while you are being active.

As for other muscle cramps the most obvious is potassium, easy to test, very cheap blood test, but highly unlikely that is your problem unless you are also anorexic, or have a very poor diet, or have some other medical condition that tends to have low potassium associated with it. More likely you might be vitamin D dificient, especially if you protect yourself from the sun, blood test can confirm it, and if yiu are a woman checking your iron is important, as it carries the oxygen to the muscles. Lastly, if you have other symptoms that might indicate hypothyroid that can lead to muscle weakness and pain. That also is a simple blood test, the basic one is very cheap, and I personally think women should be checked every where for all the things I named attheir yearly check up. Oh, and to add one more, many women I know are borderline low for B12 without supplementation, which affects the nervous system. I never recommend just popping a bunch of megadoses of vitamins until you have an idea of where you really stand by getting the tests done. I have to take huge doses of vitamin D to stay up in the nornal range, I never would have known without the tests. Same with iron.

So to simplify:
BMP (that will include the Potassium)
TSH (that’s the thyroid)
Vitamin D
Vitamin B12
Iron or CBC (depending on what your dctor prefers or both.)

All that might total $100—$200 out of pocket without insurance, but most likely it will be covered by your insurance if you have insurance. Also, it is likely your doctor automatically does at least some of them, and you can see some of it on your last blood test. Special note: if you TSH is >4 it is likely still considered nornal by the lab and GP’s, but endocrinologists would find it worrisome, and worth monitoring more closely.

Last, but not least, remember to stretch after exrecising, not bouncing, just holding stretches for several seconds, to lengthen your muscles and avoid soreness.

Edit: if you are young, in your teens, they might be associated with growing pains.

ragingloli's avatar

Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth at a normal and consistent speed.

gailcalled's avatar

The current medical literature says that no one really knows 1) what causes cramps during heavy exercise and 2) that all the stuff about hydration, extra sodium, calcium and potassium, drinks with electrolytes, stretching before or after or neither or both is, at the moment, anecdotal.

No one seems to be doing the research. All of the serious advice starts with “possibly” and not “probably.”

One doctor who runs says that the only thing that helps him is to call his wife on his cell phone and have her come and get him.

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Suggestions, recommendations and ‘might-work’ ideas from WebMD

funkdaddy's avatar

I think @gailcalled is on to something. I used to run competitively and would get stitches in my side that wouldn’t let me breathe.

I went to the doctor and they recommended the “shotgun approach” which included cutting out all dairy, drinking more water, lots of ab exercises, and drinking 2oz of maalox before I headed out along with other equally strange suggestions. None of that worked.

For me what eventually helped was varying my breathing in relation to my foot strikes. I was trying to keep my breathing deep and regular and in relation to my pace. Apparently exhaling completely right when the same foot lands each time causes your innards to jiggle wrong (technical terms) and causes the side stitch in my case. If I don’t breathe out as deeply (until you need to) and don’t tie my breathing to my pace then I don’t get the stitch.

Of course yours may be different, but I’d say try different things and see what helps. I’d pass on the maalox though, that stuff is nasty.

gailcalled's avatar

Maalox? Wouldn’t that necessitate a toilet stop at some point, probably where there was no toilet?

funkdaddy's avatar

@gailcalled – That’s the only time I’ve ever used it, on an empty stomach if I remember right I actually had the opposite issue.

gailcalled's avatar

Occasionally I can feel a leg cramp coming on while I am doing floor stretches. If I leap to my feet that second and not wait another second to see what might happen, I can walk it off.

The premonition gives me a really tiny bit of lead time only.

(Most people do not need thyroid tests.)

nikipedia's avatar

If you’re talking about side stitches, they are most likely attributable to the kind of breathing you do while running. Try varying your breathing patterns. Exhale only when your left foot hits the ground. Or breathe in for 3 footfalls, out for 2.

And you can also just run through it. Slow down, breathe, and wait for it to pass.

JLeslie's avatar

I think what @gailcalled wrote is on target, in that there are all sorts of ideas on the matter, but not a most likely or most probably answer. These ideas are mostly antecdotal, she’s right, and I would even say close to being “old wives tales” some of them. Especially the potassium, which is a very legitimate reasn people might have muscle trouble, but eating a banana when someone is already fine with their potassium numbers, which the majority of people are, probably won’t do a thing. Potassium, sodium, our electrolytes, are extremely important to keep us alive, and our bodies are constantly keeping those levels in the right places. When they are out of whack it can lead to cardiac arrest, so probably you would have more serious symptoms than just a leg muscle cramp if your potassium was really off.

Also, the vitamin D advice I gave, I personally have narrowed down some of my muscle trouble to vitamin D dificiency, and have three friends, one is actually a friend of a friend, who also has had huge changes taking vitamin D, one literally swears she stopped limping, but the medical establishment does not agree on the vitamin D hooplah out there right now. I guess maybe there have not been studies to confirm the finding, or maybe there are conflicting studies.

tranquilsea's avatar

I run and the only thing that helps side cramps for me is eating oatmeal about ½ hour before I run. That stops any cramps for over an hour.

I’ve tried not eating before, eating various things before at various intervals…but the only thing that helps me is eating oatmeal.

emeraldisles's avatar

Is there something in the oatmeal that helps? I think that’s true because I had it one morning before a 5 k and made it.

tranquilsea's avatar

@emeraldisles I’ve been trying to figure that out. But so far I don’t know. All I know is that it works for me.

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