As unfortunate as it is to say, swimming and cramping go hand in hand for me. I have noticed that guys seem to cramp more than girls in the pool, which may have something to do with the inability to properly pace. But for me, it can be absolutely horrible.
The first time I swam laps was in 2002. I mean, I’d been in a pool and could swim, but the first time I swam laps specifically for the purpose of exercise was shortly after running a marathon. I thought I was in shape after, you know, a MARATHON. But nooooooooooo, one length of the pool left me gasping for breath and sinking to the bottom. It’s pretty funny to think about now, but at the time it was so tough!
I decided I wanted to do a triathlon, so I had to learn how to swim. I was bad. Like, really, really bad at swimming. After a little time training and making some improvements (as in, I didn’t drown), it was time to try a “speed” workout.
BAM!! The first of many swimming cramps.
If you’ve never had the displeasure of cramping while swimming, let me explain it. It seems that due to the weightlessness, the cramp seizes in an incredibly painful way and travels the entire length of your body. As I write this, I realize it’s not that much different out of water, except you can get weight on it faster. I don’t know if you all feel the same, but when I get weight on it that tends to ease the pain and muscle seizure. So, in the water, you can’t get that weight underneath to ease the severity. On a positive note, you can duck your head under water and scream as loud as you want without scaring everyone within the mile surrounding you. So, there’s that.
I have 2 spots that cramp up, and on both legs/feet. I cramp in the arch of my foot and my inner quad to the inside of the knee. The feet cramps are bad…but when it reaches up into the quad? WOW. Oh My. Let’s not do that again!!
Of course, I have gone out of my way to try everything to improve this experience. Honestly, the best luck I’ve had is with the product this site is about – Recoverye21. Before finding e21, I would cramp probably 3 out of 5 swims. Which made me really, really not like swimming. Even more than the never-ending black line! Now, I take 2 e21 just before getting in the pool and I’m down to cramping about 1 out of every 10 or 15 swims. I get close, and fight them off sometimes, but I can finish my workout. And almost cramping is like 10 billion times better than actually cramping. It still happens, it happened pretty badly last week actually, but the dramatic improvement in my swim ability is directly attributed to quality and duration of swimming.
There is nothing more debilitating than muscle cramping. I have a few stories about that very issue, which we’ll get to at some point. One that still stings. Okay, I don’t want to think about that.
Anyway, muscle cramping while swimming is unpleasant at best. And massively painful at times. I’ve tried drinking tonic water (quinine), which also seems to help a little. I roll out my feet with a trigger point ball, roll my quads with a foam roller, I even soak my feet in epsom salts. Hey, it can’t hurt. And if nothing else, I get a nice foot soak out of it!
Are you getting the idea this cramp thing is a big deal for me? Yeah. Pretty much.
I would advise trying any and all of the above. If it helps, do it. And keep doing it. Getting better at swimming helps, too, but I’m convinced that those of us genetically predetermined to cramping will always deal with it.
If you have a suggestion, please share!! I’m willing to try most anything.