Couch to 5K

Any advice for calf cramps?

I don't usually post my own stuff, spend most of my time reading all your posts and commenting on the odd one, thought tonight I'd pick your brains. Anyone have any advice for calf cramps? It's the first time I've had them since starting c25k but they just about crippled me tonight and I was forced to take several walking breaks during my 5mile run. I did try stopping to stretch them off which helped for all of 200m before I was back to square one :( I also had to roll my compression socks down as I think they just added to the problem (first time I've tried them and I won't be trying again).

On a more positive note I'm now able to run 5 miles after graduating just before christmas, I'm sure I'd be further on by now but life got in the way. My engagement, finances brothers wedding, followed by a ski holiday, booked wedding essentials for December this year, motivation loss for running and my 30th birthday has made for an interesting start to the year. As long as I can run 6 miles by June 9th for the Blaydon race and reach at least 10 by September I'm sure I'll manage the GNR :)

Happy running everyone!

7 Replies

Sounds like you've been having a busy year, and it's great you are still running!

Cramps can have several causes, and here are the ones most likely to be pertinent to your calf cramp in a run:

1. Dehydration (especially if it is getting warmer than you've been used to lately when you are running)

2. Deficiency of: sodium, magnesium, calcium or possibly potassium. These can accompany dehydration, and can be offset by a bit of salt in your diet if you are sweating buckets, a calcium-magnesium supplement and/or upping your general intake of leafy greens (good for all three!)

3. Extreme muscle fatigue - since you were doing your "normal" workout this is less likely, but still possible

4. Protection of an injury - muscle spasm can help stabilize an injury as a protective mechanism. If your knees/feet/etc are bothering you, particularly in the calf cramp continues, it might be worth getting it looked at.

5. Poor circulation - which I am guessing is a real candidate since you were using compression socks. (Do you have to wear them? If so, can your doctor recommend some alternative options just for running?)

What you can do to avoid cramps: take extra care with hydration, and keep your electrolytes up. Eat those leafy greens, or other foods high in potassium and magnesium especially. Do some calf stretches *after* your warm up, but before your run. Stretching the muscle when it is cold can increase the chance of injury, but stretching before a cramp happens can prevent it altogether. So try it once you are warmed up. If you are getting overheated, try running at a cooler time of day, or maybe wearing fewer layers. Also, be mindful of any injuries you might have that could contribute.

What you can do if you get cramps: obviously, stretching and walking (rather than running) can help. Heat applied to a cramp can loosen the muscle, as well as massage. Cold applied to any inflamed areas or injuries can help make the cramping unnecessary so it goes away. Drink water, and if you are truly dehydrated, consider a proper re-hydration drink. "Sports drinks" in general are not usually necessary for most people, but they do contain some of the stuff you might be missing (and usually also lots of sugar), so it could help you hydrate quickly if you have a cramp. Oral rehydration salts, mixed with water, work too - although they taste fairly yucky.

A bath with epsom salts in the water increases your magnesium via the bath water, and is good for after-run soaks and to relieve muscle aches.

Good luck!


Alaiyo now I know why we all missed you so much, what a mind of information you are, so good to have you back. I agree 100% with what you have said.

I drink Tonic Water with quinine in it, its very good for cramp and you can add a bonus vodka (as I do) or gin. AA nice way to put some salt back into your body is a bag of salted crisps along with suggested drink. ;)


Thanks Alaiyo, I'm hoping it wasn't dehydration as I'd been well hydrated all day but will certainly bear it in mind as a watch out. I'm also hoping I'm not deficient in minerals, I've been taking a superdrug berocca after every run to replace lost goodies :) 3 might be the best possibility, I did a 5 miler on Friday too, perhaps my legs hadn't recovered from that. 4, unlikely but I am going to see if I can have gait analysis done on Sunday since I'm increases distances, I've decided better safe than sorry! And 5, my circulation as far as I'm aware is fine (I use compression running socks when skiing to prevent calf cramps in my ski boots, looks like they do the opposite when I'm running!) so I'm definitely not going to use them again! I do have a magnesium spray so think I'll spray that on tonight to aid recovery. Here's to the next run being better :)



i use to get the same problem and started taking magnesium tablets which seemed to have helped. Also spent more time stretching before running


No No NO!!!!! There are NO panaceas for your problems -- same as for seasickness. Only going to sea and getting sick - maybe many times- is what is needed for your body to acclimate itself . No drugs - no vitamins -- just doing it!!!! Same as for running. Certainly - learn as much as you can about running ( I have realised that it is not necessarily something that comes naturally to us - like swimming) . We just have to do it - and , in time , all the pains go away -- provided you listen to your body. If it is sore and needs a rest , it will tell you. You can't fix it with vitamin supplements , etc.

Just run - intelligently.


Thanks for your advice all! Bazza I'll keep plugging away at those longer runs, some of it probably is acclimatisation. I'm surprised it's taken 5 months for me to feel any major reprocussions to running (guess I got lucky after the amount of woes I read on here on a week by week basis) I'm very much on the fence with supplements (given apparently you pee most of them straight back out) but I figured a berocca wasn't too expensive and I wasn't taking one everyday (I passed out at the price of some of the supplements out there) and the magnesium spray is left over from me desperately trying to fix a chronic neck problem which was ongoing for 1 1/2 years, still get twinges now but I'm about 85% recovered, so it's not going to hurt to try or cost me anything :) here's to getting my happy calves back!


IT could also simply be a matter of overtraining???


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