You’re in the car, driving home from a great day’s ride, when searing pain rips its way up your leg. Sound familiar? We look at the science of stopping cramp
Eating mustard won’t help – who’d have guessed? And nor will posture, the weather or salty crisps. So what can you do to prevent cramp?
Let’s get the bad news out the way first: there is apparently no proven way to prevent cramp, and nobody even really knows what it is or what causes it.
So while all manner of people on social media will tell you to drink electrolytes and try training to cover more miles, Dr Kevin Miller from Central Michigan University tells us that really won’t help. The good Doc looked at over 60 scientific articles conducted between 1955 and 2008 and found no experimental evidence for either theory.
Doc Miller concluded that cramp probably doesn’t arise because of any single cause, but is due to several factors combined. So the best approach is to treat cramping with the one weapon that has been proven to be effective: stretching.
Three cramp busting stretches
1. Downward dog
This pose opens the shoulders and lengthens the hamstrings.
How to do it
- Begin on all fours, tuck toes under and begin to straighten legs, pushing sit bones to the sky.
- Bend one knee at a time to begin with to wake up your hamstrings.
- Hold for five-10 breaths, letting head hang loosely and focusing on releasing heels to the ground.
2. Camel Pose
The reverse of the forward-leaning, crouched position often adopted by bikers, stretching the hip flexors and opening the chest.
How to do it
- Begin kneeling with toes hooked under and bring hand to lower back.
- Keeping hips over knees, slowly lean back, keeping shoulders down.
- If you want to work deeper, bring hands to rest on heels and let head hang back.
- Hold for five-10 breaths, bring hands to lower back, and come back to kneeling.
3. Triangle Pose
This is a great stretch for the hamstrings and the hip flexors. It also requires lateral movement of the spine and rotation from the core — two movement planes often neglected in biking.
How to do it
- Stand with feet about 1m apart and spread arms parallel to floor.
- Turn front (right) foot out 90 degrees and back (left) foot in 30 degrees.
- Inhale and reach across to right, bending from hip not waist.
- Exhale and bring right hand down to shin, ankle or foot, and left arm up to sky, looking to fingertips of your top hand.
- Hold for 5-10 breaths, lengthening spine with each inhalation, and turning chest to sky with each exhalation.
- Come back to centre on an inhale and repeat on other leg.