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Sprinting and Leg Cramps

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  • Sprinting and Leg Cramps

    Several weeks ago, I had tried sprinting and had developed some cramping issues in the calves and hamstrings. This link most accurately describes the pain:Calf Heart Attack.

    It was happening in both calves and hamstrings. I decided to rest it and back off and let things heal. In the meantime, I've been "sprinting" in the gym using the elliptical and stationary bicycle. Much less fun and the air wasn't as good.

    Today, I felt good enough that I went out again to try sprinting. I ran 4 warm up intervals at about 60%. All things felt good. I then stopped to stretch my calves, hamstrings, and quads. I felt a little tightness in my left hamstring but other wise good.

    So sprint #1, I go at about 80%. It felt awesome. I really tried hard to relax, keep my form, not tense my face, all the things about good sprinting form. The fresh air, running on the grass, the wind in my face, it was almost like slow motion.

    Sprint #2, I go at 100%. Made it through ok, but towards the end, felt my left hamstring whispering to me.

    Sprint #3, I go at 80% again and my hamstring starts whispering again at about the last 10 meters of the 80 meters I'm sprinting.

    Sprint #4, I go at 80% and my hamstring starts raising it's voice louder towards the last 30 meters so I decide to bail and not injure it more.

    I walk back home to cool down while stretching the hamstring along the way. Right now, several hours later, it's noticeably sore when I try to stretch it. I am trying to massage and rub it out but I can see this will be a several day deal. I don't plan to try and sprint again until Sunday (4 days later) so hopefully it will heal.

    I have read elsewhere on this forum that in addition to me getting in better fitness/condition of my legs for sprinting, it may be a magnesium and/or potassium deficiency. Does anyone have any experience thoughts on this with regards to sprinting specifically? I'm having no issues with the rest of PBF or PB in general, just sprinting (which I think is awesome if I can just do it without these cramps/pulls interfering).
    OptionJedi Journal

  • #2
    The cramping may very well have been caused by magnesium deficiency, especially if you are not making a determined effort to take in enough via diet. I am a life long athlete and never had issues with cramping until going full paleo. Since I don't concentrate on mag intake in my diet, I supplement. No more cramps.

    Regarding the sprinting, you are doing exactly what I did when I tweaked a hamstring a while back. I took a couple of weeks off, and then eased back gently into the sprinting. I did not however give a 100% effort until about 4 weeks later I think. Give 80%, give 90%, but don't go 100% until that hamstring isn't talking to you any longer, or you risk a more serious strain or tear that may take months to recover from.


    • #3
      Thanks Tim. I am not focused on Magnesium via diet. Part of why I like Primal is that it's easy. I don't count calories, don't count portions, I just do.

      That having been said, I do take a multi-vitamin (Costco) and it has 120mg of Magnesium. Do you think I need more? I've seen some talk about Magnesium and Potassium together or also with Calcium. All very confusing to me.
      OptionJedi Journal


      • #4
        Somewhere else in the forum someone mentioned that if you have flat feet, shouldn't be running barefoot. I'm not doing barefoot, but am wearing New Balance Minimus very light weight shoes (kind of like Vibram Five Fingers but without the fingers). AND I do have flat feet. Used to wear orthotics or athletic shoes with lots of stabilization support. Could this also be part of the reason why I'm having these calf and hamstring cramps/pulls? Should I go back to shoes with arch support and stabilization due to flat feet?
        OptionJedi Journal


        • #5
          Doesn’t make sense to seek arch support for flat feet, I have flat feet and run/sprint in minimalist sneakers and have no cramping issues. I have done it barefoot too and never any pain or discomfort. Could you provide a link to where you read that? I’d like to see what the reasoning is.

          I’m sure people have been flat footed and barefoot for literally thousands of years, arch support is a very recent development.

          I supplement magnesium (citrate), typically 600mg a day, sometimes I forget it all together though, so maybe my daily average is more like 400mg. I’ve read that athletes should get at least 200mg which is not always doable through diet alone unless you seek foods specifically for their magnesium content. Helps me sleep too, so I take it before bed. I haven’t had issues with loose stools at all, but some people do report that so ease into it.
          Last edited by iniQuity; 04-28-2011, 07:34 AM.
          I used to seriously post here, now I prefer to troll.


          • #6
            I'm a long time runner and have dealt with devastating cramps. In my experience electrolyte deficiencies wouldn't show up in the first few minutes of sprinting. Tight and/ or not warmed up muscles could cramp in the first few minutes.

            For any kind of track workout I jog 15-20 minutes, ease into a couple of 100m strides and THEN start the workout. I'm not much for stretching but I am faithful with the foam roller as that helps more with my tight muscles.

            Especially if you have a desk job, tight glutes and lower back would also pull the hamstring.



            • #7
              OK, I have been nursing my hamstring since the last pull. I guess at my level of fitness and at the ripe old age of 45, I just need to rest a week or more between sprints. With all of the support and advice of the forums, I did the following:

              1. Refrained from real sprinting and just did elliptical or stationary bicycle for sprints, but mostly rested
              2. Got a tiger tail massage stick and have been kneading my hamstrings, calves, and quads
              3. Got Magnesium lotion and have been rubbing the hamstring area

              Today, after alot of waiting, it was time to go out and try to sprint again. So, here was the pre-launch checklist
              1. Kneaded all of the potentially troublesome muscles again
              2. Got Coconut water (potassium) and drank some before I went out
              3. Warmed up by lightly jogging over to my sprinting area
              4. Stretched hamstrings and calves
              5. Ran 4 80m sprints at 70%, no issues!
              6. Ran sprint 5's last 20m at 85%, felt a little twinge in left hamstring. However, really focusing on relaxing all muscles, face, shoulders and really thinking about breathing and pumping arms helped.
              7. Ran last 20m of sprint 6, 7, and 8 at about 90% effort. I think next workout I might try to increase the full on sprint distance to be the last 40m of the last 2 intervals. I now realize I need to increase effort gradually.

              No cramps!!!!! No pulled hamstrings or calf heart attacks.

              Stretched hammies and calves, drank more of the coconut water, massaged muscles, took warm shower, and rubbed more magnesium lotion into hamstrings. Still good.

              I am feeling soreness develop, but the good working out kind of soreness, not the pulled muscle type. Thanks to all for helping my old unfit body get over this hump. Now I know that I really need to rest and let my body get stronger/repair from the sprinting. Man, what is it about the real sprinting that just beats up the body so much more than anything in the gym?

              Anyway, it was super fun and I am super excited I can do this again as it's way more enjoyable than being on the treadmill or some other contraption in the gym!!!
              OptionJedi Journal


              • #8
                Good news, OptionJedi. Yeah, I hear you on the recovery time, I'm 44 and I can manage 2 sprint sessions a week (I've been a runner all my life), but anymore than that and I would be on the fast track for an injury I think. There is something really fun about sprinting, isn't there? I was a mid to long distance runner, but I am really enjoying sprinting so much that I rarely do any long runs these days.

                Continue to monitor it and sprint with care. I would still feel little twinges in mine 6 weeks later, and that was a sign to back off or call it a day.


                • #9
                  Thanks Tim. Yes, I hate running, always have. But sprinting is kind of like a time warp. As long as their is no muscle pulling pain to derail me, it feels like an altered state of reality Plus it's over so quickly. I think this is the "magic" part of PBF. I can feel all kinds of "adjustments" my body's making after the spring and even today, the day after. Shoulders, legs, feet, abs. All are "adapting" to the workout (or so I think).

                  Feels like a turbo booster on the rest of the workout.
                  OptionJedi Journal


                  • #10
                    Thanks for this information from everyone that posted. I've had a similar encounter since I play rugby. I've had issues in the past and even now with the calves and hamstrings cramping on me when running.

                    A question I still do have left is, when the strain is from over a longer period (like over an hour into game), wouldn't that indicate a mix of problems instead of solely being related to diet or fitness?

                    Just curious, as I am leaning towards a mix of more calve/hamstring along with magnesium deficiency. Not sure though

                    Edit: I only run on game day, so roughly that one time per week