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Is there anything worse than getting a muscular cramp or stich in your side during training? While you might have heard that muscular cramps are due to dehydration or a lack of electrolytes, this theory is increasingly put in doubt, and it seems that there are other factors at play. An increasing number of studies show that people who suffer from cramps have similar levels of electrolytes and hydration than those who don’t develop cramps. In fact, the most probable cause of muscular cramps could be muscular fatigue, although scientists don’t yet understand all the underlying mechanisms. Here are a few simple tips to prevent muscular cramps.
Muscular cramps and side stiches can be caused by a poor breathing technique. It’s important to breathe deeply with your stomach when you’re practicing a physical activity. Abdominal breathing (with your stomach) is more effective and enables the absorption of a larger quantity of oxygen compared with thoracic breathing (with your chest), which isn’t deep enough as it only uses the upper part of the lungs. With thoracic breathing, inhaled air does not remain in the lungs long enough, which stops the air from being completely renewed and limits the quantity of inhaled and exhaled air. To get used to breathing properly during exercise, it’s important to practice breathing exercises regularly. To absorb a maximum amount of oxygen during exercise, it’s preferable to breathe simultaneously through your nose and mouth. Breathing through your nose only does not enable enough oxygen to be absorbed.
Stomach Breathing Exercise
Lying on your back or standing up, place a hand on your tummy. Inhale slowly, deeply and as long as possible while inflating your tummy, then exhale slowly and as long as possible while pulling in your stomach. Try to get all the air out of your lungs when you exhale. Repeat several times.
Practicing exercises with proper technique and maintaining good posture enables you to limit muscular tension and cramps. It’s also important to maintain proper posture and avoid being tense during the day to avoid starting a workout with pre-existing tensions. Massages, stretching and releasing muscular tension with a foam roller or a small ball can also be very useful. Proper stress management will also help!
Muscular cramps usually affect muscles that are contracted repeatedly. Muscles that aren’t involved in effort don’t generally get muscular cramps. Inadequate physical preparation, very intense effort, or a sudden change in exercise intensity are factors that can increase your risk of getting muscular cramps. It is therefore important to work out at your own pace, respect your limits, set realistic goals and properly manage the intensity of your workouts.