6 Ways to Fix Your Muscle Cramps While Running a Race

Imagine you’re in the middle of a race, giving it your all, feeling the rhythm of your feet... The last thing you want happen to you is a muscle cramp! 

Image Credit: https://expertbeacon.com/sites/default/files/how_to_treat_a_muscle_cramp_-_first_aid_advice_to_help_reduce_pain.jpg

The beauty of the human anatomy is its receptiveness to quick fixes, like the popping of a dislocated bone back into its socket. Here are 6 helpful fixes for mid-race crises.

Severe Calf Cramps – Dos and Don’ts

Before attempting the following two stretches on your affected area(s), you should be aware of these common mistakes that can potentially worsen your condition. When your muscle has a severe cramp - also known as “charley horse” - it is attempting to contract violently. The muscle works in such a way that it either fully contracts or not at all. This is known as the all-or-none law.

Therefore, if you try to stretch your muscles while it’s contracting, you will tear fibres. Simply put, you should help your muscle contract before stretching it.

Firstly, tightly grab your calf with one hand on top of your calf muscle, and the other at the bottom of the muscle right above the ankle. Then, push your hands together. While this is a relatively painful process, it will only last for a few seconds. Release your hands afterwards and repeat the process as the pain will lessen.

Calf Muscle – Gastrocnemius

This stretch is suited for the gastrocnemius muscle, also known as the upper part of your calf. Gastroc, for short. This is a simple stretch that most runners already have in their arsenal of fixes. Keep the affected foot flat while bending your body forward, with your leg still straightened. Think Michael Jackson’s anti-gravity lean in his Smooth Criminal live performances but not quite as extreme! You are strongly advised not to stand on a kerb or an elevated platform and drop your heel towards the street, as the affected muscle isn’t able to tolerate this degree of stretch immediately.

Calf Muscle - Soleus

The soleus muscle, or, the lower part of your calf, is one that many people miss out, yet it has just as much a tendency as the gastroc to cause the Achilles tendon to tear when severely contracted. To soothe this muscle, assume the same flat-footed posture as you would for the gastrocnemius stretch. Then, move forward by bending your ankle and your body backwards so that you’re also bending your knee. One common mistake is that some people bend from the hips up, which does nothing to your affected areas.

As the soleus is easily overlooked, you may not feel an improvement after doing a gastrocnemius stretch on what seems to be a calf cramp. Your soleus could very well be the problem instead.


As a child, I’m sure you’ll remember not being allowed to run or swim just after a meal. We are most prone to those painful ‘stitches’ that left us writhing in pain after eating. Scientifically speaking, "stitches" are the cramping of the diaphragm and are caused by trapped gases below the diaphragm muscles. This can happen when we inhale, exercise right after a meal, or exercise too intensely.

One effective remedy requires you to alter your breathing pattern. Inhale deeply as quickly as possible to force the diaphragm down, then hold your breath for a few seconds before expelling it slowly by pursing your lips. Brisk walking while doing this also helps. Once the pain goes away, you may want to consider changing your breathing pattern. For instance, if you usually inhale when your right foot hits the ground, try switching it to your left foot instead. 


Having quad cramps (the front of your thighs) may not be as common an occurrence as calf cramps. However, when it cramps deep, it can even go right up to your groynes. Sounds devastating and not something any runner wants! According to author and athlete Rebecca Rusch, it is caused by running at higher speeds than your quad muscles are conditioned for.

To properly stretch the quad, stand upright and lift your ankle towards your buttocks while holding the top of your foot. Then, pull your heel gently in towards your buttocks to stretch.


Toe/foot cramps, like many other types of muscular cramps, are caused by dehydration, an apt factor for runners who get too engrossed to hydrate. They can also be caused by running under the soles of the feet, or by wearing running shoes that are ill-fitting, more so if they are too tight.

A foot pull is a particularly useful stretch for this. Sit with one leg crossed over the other, then grasp all of your toes and pull them as a cluster back towards your shin until you feel a pull in the sole of your foot. Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat this 10 times.

"The beauty of the human anatomy is its receptiveness to quick fixes."


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LIV3LY Editor
LIV3LY Editor

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