When they strike, muscle cramps are the bane of anyone who works out or practices a sport. Swimmers and people who do aerobics or other workouts in the water are no exception. And swimmers sometimes even have to contend with cramps that most other athletes and exercisers don’t, like cramps in the feet.
An as far as being in the water is concerned, cramps aren’t just a nuisance or painful. Few things can interfere with—and even put a stop to—your practice or workout faster than a severe muscle cramp. But cramping also presents dangers to people in a pool or other body of water, and it’s always advisable to get out if you start cramping up.
While we actually don’t understand the physiological science of why humans experience muscle cramps, we are aware of some steps that generally help keep them from occurring. So, here are some tips to prevent cramps while swimming or working out in the water.
How to Prevent Cramps While Swimming or Exercising in Water
- Drink water or an electrolyte beverage in the few hours leading up to your swim or workout, as dehydration seems to be a common contributing factor to cramping.
- Also, be sure to drink periodically during your workout or practice; because you’re all wet, you often don’t realize how hot you’re getting and how much you’re sweating, which increases the risk of becoming dehydrated and getting cramps.
- If you tend to sweat a lot, add a bit of salt to your drinking water. This helps keep your electrolytes in balance (you lose a lot of salt via perspiration) and helps you retain water.
- Eat a smart meal or snack before swimming, as this helps prevent muscle fatigue, which is also associated with developing cramps during exercise.
- Start with a light warm-up, like a short, moderately paced walk. Then, perform stretches for all your muscle groups. Although many people stretch before doing any warm-ups or exercises, it’s always best not to stretch “cold” muscles. Get in the water after these preliminary steps.
- Vary your strokes or aquatic exercises. This helps prevent muscle fatigue and overuse of certain muscles, both of which appear to contribute to cramping.
- Take a look at the known side effects of any medication you take if you’re easily or frequently getting cramps. Some blood pressure medications, cholesterol- and lipid-lowering drugs, insulin and diabetes medicines, oral contraceptives, and other medications can cause increased cramping; a lower dose or an alternative drug may be a solution.
- Treat yourself to an occasional massage to help keep your muscles loose and flexible.