Runner leg and muscle pain during running training outdoorsMuscle cramps are among the most common afflictions. Most everyone has experienced them at least on occasion. Doctors have not come to a consensus on the reason but the discomfort is likely caused by a number of things, including medications. The good news is you can minimize muscle cramps with these simple strategies.

Stretch it out
Sure the most immediate response when a muscle cramp hits is to freeze up. They are painful. A better strategy is to walk it out or stretch gently, if you can. Muscle cramps happen when muscles contract involuntarily. Movement can help release the muscle from the uncomfortable contraction and begin to relax. Massage, foam rollers and heating pads can also help.

Check labels
If medication is the cause of your muscle cramps, check with your health care provider for suitable alternatives.

Water helps our bodies run better in countless ways. Sometimes the solution for muscle cramps is as simple as avoiding dehydration. If you are going to work out vigorously or for more than an hour, remember to replace lost electrolytes. Cramps are also caused by an imbalance of sodium, which can happen with excessive sweating.

Fuel with carbs
Muscle cramps can also be caused by depleted carbohydrate stores. Be sure your diet includes quality carbs – i.e. whole grains that boost energy and may even banish cramps.

Add minerals
Potassium and magnesium are also good ways to minimize or eliminate muscle cramps. Common sources of potassium include sweet potatoes (enjoy the skin, too) and bananas. You will find magnesium abundant in pumpkin, many types of fish and whole grains such as quinoa. Opt for a nutritionally sound meal plan that includes plenty of variety for the best coverage.

Cut back
No, muscle cramps should not be an excuse to avoid exercise, but they can be a good reason to cut back. If you get muscle cramps after an especially vigorous or long work-out session, try breaking your workouts into smaller periods or reducing their intensity.

If you have ever had muscle cramps, and most of us have, you know what a pain they are. Although they can feel paralyzing in the moment, move as soon and as much as you can to help the muscle move through the contraction. Try out different strategies or even a combination for relief. You know your body better than anyone so find ways to treat it well and keep it running smoothly. The benefits will be countless.