Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Toes Cramp In The Pool!!!

This is one of life's mysteries for me. I hate getting a toe or foot cramp while swimming. It usually happens about 800 yards into a swim. I feel the toes tightening up, then its the arch of my foot. Usually it is only one foot at a time. I can ease the tightness somewhat whenever I get to the wall and push off, but it never subsides. I also tend to get toe/foot cramps at night in bed, and the only way I know to get rid of them is to stand up. Which is not practical when I am already in bed and it's 1:30 AM. So why do you get cramps in your toes while swimming? Let's turn to Google...

First thing you should know is my search parameter was this: Why do toes cramp while swimming. Results, 2,020,000 results. So I guess I am not the only one with this issue! Here are the following answers I got:

  • I am not stretching enough. "swimmer" says I should stretch out all my muscles and not just the ones that are stretching every night.
  • Blonde tornado says it is because I am dehydrated
  • Others say to eat bananas (typical cramping answer)
  • Jim T says it is because the water is cold and the blood gets pushed away from the extremities.
  • The rest are more of the same

I really don't know why it happens, but it can kill a workout. I can be cruising along at 800 yards into a 1200 yard swim (remember, sprint tri training plan) and BOOM, toe cramp with 4 laps left! You can push through it, but it ain't fun.

I think I finally found an answer on swimming.org that totally makes sense to me. It is the most common complaints from triathletes, which proves that I am one!  Wahooo!!!

Anatomy of a kick

“Cramp occurs when a muscle is fatigued and overused, when a swimmer is dehydrated and has a electrolyte deficit or if the muscle is tight from a previous session,” said Butler.
“The plantar fascia is a fibrous, connective tissue which surrounds the muscles in the sole of foot.
“It’s stretches from the toes to the heel and works closely with the main calf muscles in the back of the lower leg – the gastrocnemius, soleus and the tibalis posterior.
“These are the main muscles involved in pointing the foot and toes during streamlining and kicking. Cramp in any of them will be felt in the back of the lower leg or the sole of the foot.”


“The first thing to remember is to stay hydrated, not just with water but with electrolytes, and to eat the right things to help your body before and after training,” added Butler.
“Secondly, stretching is vital for maintaining flexibility in your muscles and should be included in your warm-up and warm-down for pool and land-based sessions.”

Specific muscle stretches

Try these stretches for the individual muscles on the calf and foot – hold each stretch for two minutes in 10, 20 or 30 second intervals.
  1. Gastrocnemius stretch – stand with one leg in front of the other and lean against a wall. Bend your front leg and keep your back leg straight with your heel on the floor until you feel the muscle stretch in the back of the lower leg between your heel and knee.
  2. Soleus stretch – stand with one leg in front of the other and lean against a wall. Bend both knees and transfer your weight to your back leg, ensuring you keep the heel of your back leg on the floor. You should feel the muscle stretch in the back of the lower leg.
  3. Plantar Fascia stretch – stand with one leg in front of the other with the toes of your front foot on or up against a raised platform (such as a step or a wall). Bend both knees until you feel the stretch in the sole of your front foot.
  4. Alternative plantar fascia relief – roll your foot over a golf or hockey ball. If you find this too painful, try it in warm water to help the muscles relax more.
So maybe, just maybe, that chocolate milk and Snickers bar I had before I swam wasn't the right fuel for me. Hmmmm.

Anyways, let me hear your thoughts on how to deal with them and more importantly how to not have this as an issue!

1 comment:

  1. I get cramps under one of my feet when i swim about every 5th swim and normally I THINK (not sure) it's because i'm pointing my toes too hard or something like that. Scientific right?


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