Most understand that a cramp is a sudden, involuntary muscle contraction or over-shortening that may cause mild-to-excruciating pain. For athletes, the onset is usually sudden, and it resolves on its own over a period of several seconds, minutes, or hours.
Cramps occur in a skeletal or smooth muscle and may be caused by fatigue, or lack of electrolytes. SUP Magazine writes a nice summary on prevention.
Nothing puts a damper on a distance paddle like a good cramp. The exact cause of cramps is still a source of debate, however many believe cramping occurs when minerals, electrolytes, and salt are lost through sweat, causing the body to become depleted. Others believe cramps are caused by premature fatigue, possibly explaining why most athletes cramp more during races than workouts. Regardless of the exact source, there are plenty of known methods for avoiding cramps. Here are six of the most effective ways for standup paddlers to safeguard against cramps.
Eat salt. Despite the negative connotations associated with sodium, your body desperately needs salt to regulate blood pressure and maintain normal fluid balance. Additionally, salt is an essential electrolyte lost through sweat that helps cells properly absorb and retain water. To avoid cramps associated with salt loss, stalk up on salt tablets, add a pinch of sea salt to your water or munch on some pretzels after a long and sweaty paddle. It’s okay. Your body will surely thank you.
Stay hydrated. The human body is composed of roughly 60 percent water. When you become dehydrated, the fluids outside your cells decrease, causing your muscles to twitch and eventually cramp. By maintaining proper hydration you can prevent major shifts in your body’s fluids and avoid painful muscle contractions. Listen to your body and drink fluids before, during, and after your workout. Just don’t consume too much water at once, as doing so can also cause stomach cramps.