Question: Nick, when I run long distances, my calves always get cramp, meaning I can’t run for a week after that. How come and what am I doing wrong? Should I just sack off running altogether? Help please as my own personal trainer seems very confused!
Answer: Don’t be silly, unless you have a pre existing injury that is forcing you to run incorrectly (thereby straining your calves unduly) there is absolutely no reason for you not to run because of muscle cramps.
A cramp occurs when a contracted muscle fails to relax due to what is called “hyperexcitability” of the nerves of the muscle. Basically when you subject the muscle to an undue level of stress or stimulation. This is the most likely cause in your case, although one must also ensure adequate hydration and intake of potassium and magnesium salts. A good sports electrolyte drink can take care of this as a potentially limiting factor.
My advice is that you do not rush headlong into running long distances, rather you should steadily build up both the duration and intensity progressively with each new run that you perform. Note that duration (volume) and intensity (of effort) are two different training variables and should be treated accordingly.
And what to do if you do get a cramp? Stretching out the offending muscle as hard as you can should do the trick, although some athletes have success by applying warm heating pads directly onto the muscle.
Oh, and maybe look for when you get yourself a new (and better) personal trainer! You might want to read this article on how to find a great a personal trainer, and can even see what Time Out has to say in their feature on London’s best personal trainers.