The Magic Pill for Leg Cramps When Cycling
Virtually everyone has experienced a leg cramp at some time or another. For many of us, they strike unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Your only remedy in that nightmarish moment is to scream into your pillow so you don’t wake everyone in the house.
For cyclists, though, leg cramps are more than just the nuisance of a midnight wake-up call. If they strike while you’re on the bike, these cramps can immediately throw off your ride.
Thankfully, though, they don’t have to. There’s a secret remedy — let’s call it a magic pill — that almost always undoes a leg cramp before any problems arise. Longtime cycling coach Darryl MacKenzie let us in on the secret and helped us understand what’s going on when leg cramps happen. Read on to learn how he deals with them — and the special elixir he always carries to stop leg cramps when cycling.
The Problem of Leg Cramps When Cycling
According to the Mayo Clinic, a muscle cramp is a “sudden and involuntary contraction of one or more of your muscles.” Scientists aren’t entirely certain what causes them, though there are strong correlations with excessive muscle activity, dehydration, and mineral deficiency. We’ve covered those causes in another post, so we won’t belabor them here. Essentially, whether due to a lack of electrolytes or overworking the muscle, the nerves that signal it to relax aren’t doing their job.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re sleeping or cycling. Leg cramps come on fast and seemingly out of the blue. You’ll immediately feel your calf or hamstring tightening, even balling up, and suddenly you can’t extend your leg. To make matters worse, they hurt like hell.
“Cramps really hurt,” says Coach Darryl. “They immediately get your attention, and it’s something you have to focus on right then and there.”
When a cramp hits on the bike, you can’t focus on anything else besides resolving the problem ASAP. Until you get that muscle to relax, you’re done pedaling. That’s why Darryl keeps his magic pill handy along with the knowledge of the best how-to method that will stop leg cramps when exercising.
How To Stop Leg Cramps in Seconds
Curious how to stop leg cramps when cycling? When you do get hit with a leg cramp on the bike, you should do two things right away. First, let the riders around you know what’s happening so they don’t run into you if you start to slow down. Then, pop two or three Tums. That’s right, Tums. Turns out these antacid pills are good for more than curing stomachaches.
How come? The reason lies in their ingredients. Tums are made of calcium carbonate. When you ingest them, the antacids quickly deliver calcium, a much-needed mineral (aka electrolyte) boost that helps your muscles contract and relax more easily.
After you pop two Tums, try to stretch the offending muscle out by standing up on the pedals to lengthen the muscle. If you do this while chewing those Tums, your leg cramp will usually go away within seconds. Trust us, this method really is that effective — and Darryl isn’t the only cyclist who can vouch for it.
Keep in mind that this magic pill isn’t meant to be taken preventively. Calcium carbonate isn’t something you should ingest all the time, so save the Tums for the moment when the cramp comes on. To ensure he’s ready, Darryl always keeps a sleeve in his cycling bag, alongside a few bottles strategically placed by his bed and recliner for those stealthy leg cramps that strike at home.
Keep Your Legs Loose
Of course, a magic pill isn’t the only way to deal with leg cramps. If you’re wondering how to avoid leg cramps when cycling, bear in mind that prevention is an even better cure. And for that, your best bet is to stay hydrated, maintain your electrolytes before and during rides, and don’t ride longer or harder than you’ve trained your body to handle. If you do those things consistently, you’ll deal with fewer leg cramps when you’re cycling.
Still, there will be times when cycling that leg cramps strike out of nowhere, despite your best efforts to prevent them. And when the pesky problem does occur, you’ll be glad you have that magic pill on hand.
Staying comfortable on the bike is a major key to cycling success. That’s why we offer tips like these on our blog — and why we’ve built our business around making the most comfortable cycling saddle on the market. You might say our saddles are a “magic pill” for saddle sores. Learn more about what sets a Selle Anatomica saddle apart.
Look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.