This week we are all about the feet! Foot cramp is something which affects professional and novice swimmers alike (albeit for different reasons), and can be an extremely frustrating condition. Imagine that you are on track to beat your best time when all of a sudden your foot tenses up painfully and you are forced to abandon your session. Annoying right?
In the case of most novice swimmers this type of cramp is caused by one of two issues. The first reason is attributed to unnecessary tension which may be the result of conscious or unconscious stresses or a lack of flexibility in the ankle joint, perhaps because you have not used your ankles in this way for a while. The second option is cramp due to a lack of muscular condition. If you have had a break from exercise and are just returning to the pool, this may be the reason for your cramp.
Thankfully there are some simple exercises and preventative measures which you can take to try and manage your cramp and avoid cutting your pool time short…
First of all make sure you drink plenty of water before beginning your session, dehydrated muscles are more likely to lead to foot cramp.
Secondly remember to stretch and relax before and after your session. Relaxing alone can have a massive effect on how often you experience painful cramps and simple stretches which are held for about 2 minutes will really loosen up your muscles. Try the following stretches to see if they help…
• Stand with one leg in front of the other and steady yourself against a wall. Slowly bend your front leg and keep your back leg straight with the heel of your foot on the floor, until you feel the stretch in the back off your lower leg.
• Stand with one leg in front of the other and steady yourself against a wall. Slowly bend both knees and transfer your weight to the back leg while keeping the heel of that foot on the floor. Do this until you feel the stretch in the back of your lower leg.
• Stand with one leg in front of the other and the toes of the front foot against a step or other barrier. Bend both knees until you feel the stretch in the sole of your front foot.
Finally make sure you are eating the right types of food to keep your muscles in tip top condition. This means plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables! Bananas are excellent for healthy muscles as they contain potassium which is said to ease painful cramps.
If you find that you are still experiencing regular foot cramps, a trip to your doctor is advisable to try and get to the bottom of this condition and to get further advice on managing it.
Happy Swimming – Sarah Bohn