A Painful Cramp

More than ever, my body has been looking me deep in the eyes and asking, “WTF?”

Here I am approaching 50, putting on mileage I’ve never dreamed possible, and clearly that doesn’t come without complications.  Last night’s 3,000 meter swim was a great example.journeyThe workout included a warm up, followed by 40 x 50 meter combined set and a cool down.  I felt fairly strong as I cooled down for 400 meters, but when I got to the end and jumped out of the pool, I was nearly brought to tears by a piercing cramp in my left calf.

As I was leaning against the wall screaming bloody murder in front of the lifeguard and festive aqua-bikers, the guy in my lane asked if I was ok.  I said, “Yeah, I’m just cramping.”  He calmly replied, “I used to get them all the time when I swam with the pull buoy.”


Yes, I remember Robbie telling me that when I was dealing with MUCH smaller cramps in the pool.  The logic is that when you immobilize your legs with the buoy, the blood circulation to your lower body slows and quick movements can launch a cramp attack.  I did know and understand this, but how quickly we forget.

I’m not gonna lie, my night was filled with a bit of panic.  I was having a hard time walking and the calf was very sore.  I tried to imagine running and it did not go well.  Could all of this training be derailed by a freak incident?

I vowed to get back in the water as quickly to start the mental healing process, and though I was 45 minutes late, I showed up at Open Water Swim to knock out 30 minutes in the lake.  I took the usual ridicule about being late, then swam up and down the orange boom for 32 minutes without stopping.  No pull buoy, no cramps, but tired arms.

Robbie and I talked for a bit after the swim (as we watched the next Pele run line drills in the sand) and he suggested the other reason for cramps in the pool can be from pushing off the wall.  This makes a ton of sense, especially when blood flow to your legs is low, and you’re exploding off the balls of your feet which targets the calf muscles.

Aside from the pull buoy, I suspected there was another major reason for the cramping: dehydration.

I am just shocked by how much I am sweating these days, and I’m assured that’s a good thing, but I have certainly not been compensating like I should with hydration.  I used to drink a lot of Coke (thankfully that habit has gone away) and my rule was always one glass of water immediately following a soda.  Now I drink coffee, and on some days too much.  It is painstakingly clear that, as mileage rises, I have to be careful and add more liquids.

I guess a third culprit could be sodium loss and last night, along with drinking a ton of water, I pulled out my homemade Gatorade recipe of 1/2 water, 1/2 orange juice, and a little bit of sea salt.  It tasted like ass, but I’m doing what I can.

So, I sit here less than a month away with a very sore calf and hope I can get this under control. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

2 thoughts on “A Painful Cramp

  1. jnkmiles.org

    just straight up fatigue can cause it as well…from all three…
    Ok, so down here its been over 100F for a few weeks….makes for brutal long workouts to say the least, but I too find the hydration DURING the day to be the biggest issue…
    Recently got a hold of Skratch labs everyday hydration mix….good stuff….
    just pop one in my water bottle….you can look ’em up Skratchlabs.com I think….

  2. KickStart Endurance

    I used to cramp all the time swimming, very obnoxious and painful. I agree that Skratch Labs is great! Nuun hydration tablets are also helpful. I sell both on my site KickStartEndurance.com Another thing that helps is to make sure you are really stretching your calves and hamstrings and using a roller like Trigger Point therapy. Hope this helps and let me know if you’re interested in purchasing some hydration, I can give you a promo code to use 🙂


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