Can a runner learn how to avoid cramping during a marathon?

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Answered by: Cassandra, An Expert in the Half-Marathons and Marathons Category
When running a race, such as a half marathon or marathon, runners are faced with many challenges. One of these challenges is learning how to avoid cramping during the race. A runner may face different types of cramping, such as side cramps or muscle cramps. It is important for the runner to be aware of what causes these cramps and the best ways to quickly treat them during the race.

A common cramp for runners is the side cramp. These cramps usually occur when the runner has not hydrated properly or is not breathing correctly. All runners should be preparing for the race prior to the start line by ensuring they are consuming enough water and nutrients prior to race day. Runners should also ensure they are properly hydrating while doing the activity. The runner may want to invest in a water bottle and water bottle holder to be used during the race. This will allow the runner to have water readily available if the race does not offer water stops or if water is needed between water stations. While running the race, it is important for the runner to pay attention to their breathing patterns. When a runner’s body is doing exercise, it requires enough oxygen to keep the muscles working properly. Many runners will focus on the race, their pace, the surroundings, or any pains they are feeling and will stop breathing properly. If the body is not receiving enough air to properly oxygenate the body, the runner may start to have a side cramp. The runner can help alleviate the side cramp by taking a few deep breaths to help the body receive the oxygen it needs. It is recommended that a runner take three deep breaths every five minutes to help the body continue to take in the proper oxygen and refocus the runner on proper breathing.

During a race, it is likely the runner will face different muscle cramps. These cramps may be caused due to many reasons. Some of the common reasons for these cramps are the body needed additional nutrients and the muscle needing to be stretched. As the longer distance races take a toll on the body, the runner needs to ensure they are taking the proper supplements and hydrating for the muscles to operate properly. Many runners will carry running gels or supplements with them to consume during the race. Each type of supplement has different effects on runners and should be tested during the training races prior to race days. These gels or supplements will help the runner replenish nutrients the body is using during the race. If the runner is experiencing tightness in the muscles, the runner may want to take a minute to stretch the muscle out to prevent possible injury from tight muscles.

Although there are many types of cramps and runners may not be able to prevent all of them, there are different ways the runner may prepare before and during the race to lessen the likelihood of one occurring. If a runner prepares well for a race, they will be able to learn how to avoid cramping and how to eliminate cramping if it starts. It is important for the runner to listen to their body to help them have the best race possible and prevent any injuries.

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