Muscle cramps can seriously cramp your workout. One minute everything is fine and then suddenly, out of nowhere, a muscle cramp rears its ugly head.
A cramp is a sudden, involuntary muscle contraction that sharply tightens and shortens a muscle. It’s usually temporary and non-damaging, but can be very painful. Cramps are a nightmare – but they’re common, especially during exercise.
But, why do muscle cramps happen anyways?
Although the exact cause can be a challenge to pinpoint, cramping is often the result of muscle overuse or strain from exercise, dehydration, mineral depletion within the body, and heat. Despite the various reasons these pesky cramps happen, the million-dollar question is: Are they preventable?
The answer is yes, there are things that you can do to help lessen your chances of suffering from muscle cramps. Prevention is key!
Muscle Overuse or Strain
If you are going from no movement to sudden, extreme movement, your body may not be happy to go along for the ride–especially if you are expecting it to go from zero to sixty in an instant. When it comes to exercise, consider the value of a warm-up. Yes, something to help bridge the gap between your sedentary life and the point at which your body to get moving. Foam rolling and gentle, dynamic movements let your body’s tissues know that there is going to be a more, intense movement to come. This may not eliminate that pesky pain but it can greatly reduce its chances of occurring.
Water makes up about 60% of your body weight. Your body needs water to survive. A lack of water in your body can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions which can make you tired, have less energy, and cause muscle cramps.
To prevent dehydration, you need to drink an adequate amount of water each day. There are many different opinions on how much water you should be drinking every day.
The rule of thumb is you NEED to be consuming 6 x your body weight in ounces of water per day, or roughly half your body weight in ounces. The more active you are, the more water your body is going to need. Consider adding a drop of lemon essential oil, fresh strawberries, or cucumbers to your water to help your body absorb the hydration more effectively. So, drink up–water that is–to keep those muscle cramps at bay.
One way to stop cramps is to eat enough of these key nutrients: potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium.
Potassium is a critical mineral for muscle contraction. It’s often a go-to fuel for those who like to hit the gym. Other sources of potassium include apricots, oranges, lentils, salmon and sweet or baked potatoes with the skin.
Magnesium is a key mineral for relaxation. Foods containing magnesium include avocado, nuts and seeds, bananas, whole grains (brown rice, cereal), dark chocolate, and dried fruit. Who doesn’t love a good excuse to buy some chocolate?
All too often we are worried about getting too much sodium. However, in all honesty, your body needs sodium. And, if you exercise, you are most likely losing quite a bit of that essential mineral. So, it is important to consider replenishing your lost sodium with a healthy post-workout drink, a vegetable juice drink, a few carrots, or even some pretzels.
Calcium is critical when it comes to developing and maintaining strong bones and muscles. Although milk is often the go-to for people when they think calcium, consider selecting yogurt, kale, broccoli, tofu, or almonds instead. They will also provide with you a great source of calcium and have less sugar when compared to milk!
If you do find yourself suddenly under attack from a muscle cramp, the following exercises might provide you with some relief.
- Stretch — Engage in light stretches that are focused around the muscle groups that are cramping.
- Massage — Lengthening the cramping muscle by using gentle massage techniques may help reduce the duration and severity of the cramp. A foam roller is also another great option to use!
For more information on how to maintain your health with exercise through diet, send us an email or scroll down and send us a message!
Working your pelvic floor: three things to know.
The uncomfortable stare you get back, when during your yoga class you utter the words “anal sphincter” or “vaginal passage way”… or worst yet “soft tissue behind the scrotum”.
This is the initial middle-schooler-discomfort my studio room usually filled with when I would connect the exercise or request with a direct body part. You could just feel the air get thick with discomfort. But why? These are body parts like any other. So why not the bicep? Or the glute? The thigh or abdomen? Taboo that lurked in the shadows around such body parts soon became my mission to bust through. Not for my sake as a teacher, but for my students’ bodies.
About 15 years ago I started questioning my grounds for being a teacher. I started questioning the ‘whys’ behind the movements and when my students were complaining things hurt or felt funny and my trained response was “that’s normal” or “it will get better”. I began to soon realize that it wasn’t my students who had to change, it was me and how and why I was doing what I was doing in the class. Because truth be told… I didn’t even really know!
I had completed my 500 hours for yoga and had taken almost a dozen training’s in the Pilates arena, but I still felt unequipped to explain the why’s and how’s to my students. And I could perform some fairly complicated postures, and was able to guide students though amazing classes and posture progression. But lacked one very important skill, the ability to take them deep into their body and see for themselves what should be going on. What should be happening. What should be firing or not firing in order to have the best experience possible in the pose and class.
At that time it became very clear to me I wasn’t going to find that in the yoga arena and decided to step outside the yoga box and start to study the body and how it moves in real time, and specifically how it relates to the core.
And when I came back, it was go time to re-educate, re-inspire, and re-focus my students so they could heal their bodies, and take back their lives. Starting with the pelvic floor.
3 Things You Should Know about Working your Pelvic Floor:
1. Your Pelvic floor is located at the bottom of your torso
ONE: When working your pelvic floor, you should know that your pelvic floor is located at the bottom of your torso, and refers to the numerous muscles that attach to your pelvic and thigh bones. These muscles need to be located directly below you, so like a houses foundation they can appropriately support what is above. So if you have poor misguided posture you could surely find yourself with pelvic floor pain, back pain, hip flexor strain or injury, or lack of good core (even glutes) strength. I often guide my students to what is sometimes called “pelvic neutral”. This serves as a “home base” in that like anything, where should I start. This is essential in assisting other muscles to begin to do their jobs as well. It doesn’t mean you walk around like a robot, but rather if your body is out of alignment, getting back there will surely serve in healthy recruiting of all muscles-pelvic floor included.
TIP: Place your hands on your (front) hip bones and pubic bone and work to align this structure to be parallel with the wall, ceiling or floor you are facing. This may seem off if you are not use to this type of posture. Start here, and try to find this posture during the day to help your body find it’s home base again. Putting your pelvic floor back underneath you and core back inside of you.
2. Incontinence is not a normal part of aging
TWO: When working your pelvic floor, many women (and men) believe that incontinence is a “normal” part of aging. However, at no point is incontinence a part of the aging process in reflection to your pelvic floor. And what has become very clear to me is very few (even the most “fit”) don’t really understand how to contract the pelvic floor, in that they bear down rather than contract up and in. If you have incontinence issues and have had a child, endured some sort of trauma, or injury, neuromuscular retraining may be in your future.
TIP: I tell all my students: “first you have to understand it, then you have to visualize it (or at least be able to guide yourself there if you are not one who can visualize), then feel and perform to truly create that new fully functioning pathway. Being anywhere on that path is a successful step in the right direction. And being told to “contract your pelvic floor” (unless you know the where’s and how’s of those muscles) is not enough.
3. Squeezing doesn’t get the job done
THREE: When working your pelvic floor, many people believe that just squeezing “down there” gets the job done. However that could not be farther from the truth. For many squeezing what they believe to be the pelvic floor is only the engagement of the glutes or hip flexors, or even just part of the pelvic floor. This is exactly why it is vital to invest time in feeling out these parts of the body upon engagement. I work to explain to my students that when one area of the body isn’t cooperating or maybe can’t hear or understand the command, other neighboring body parts step up and say “I got this”. Except the body can only do “other” jobs that aren’t that area’s for so long. Eventually you will feel pain, dysfunction, or experience injury – many times in the form of a random occurrence that has no trailing back to the how or why.
TIP: During your yoga or exercise class slow it down and ask yourself “what muscle(s), what body parts (think locations, no need to know exact names) are getting the job done? Most just do and never slow down to see. When you can see what’s going on you can change it’s course. You will then find a huge improvement in how you move and the quality of movement as well.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is a real thing and not just a title deemed for those who have experienced a large physical trauma or have had a baby. Our sedentary culture obsessed with extreme movement is a cocktail that can and is wrecking havoc on our bodies with no bridge to fill the gap between no movement and extreme variations of.
Consider a class, session or guide who can take you through the exercises with an understanding and education so you can start to better understand both how your body moves and how it currently does not. Learn what to focus on and what to do or not do to begin to heal the areas of concern, one being the pelvic floor. Because if they don’t talk about it, is it fair to assume they don’t understand it. And if they don’t understand it, how will you?
“Take care of your body, it’s the only one you have and replacement parts are never as good as the originals” ~ Hope Zvara
Want to work with Hope and begin the journey to a more powerful pelvic floor? No fancy moves! No hard to understand language! No fluff!
Just moves that make sense in a program made just for you!
Movement, working out, exercise… call it what you want. It and I (is that how you say it?) have a very special relationship.
Movement is partly what saved me from a life-strangling eating disorder. When I’m not moving, long story short, it is often a slippery slope to the land of sorrows, depression, and anxiety. There is something so amazing about feeling strong, feeling alive, and feeling in my body. I love exploring movements. I love being creative and pushing myself in a way that can best serve my body.
But too much of anything can be a bad thing – even exercise. As I get older I’m more conscious of my joints, my bones. I’m trying to stay pain-free, not just trim and fit.
About two years ago, I took a very bad fall and it landed me a slow recovery and a body that felt like it was well into it’s 70’s or 80’s. Muscles wouldn’t let go of the trauma, and I started to develop imbalances that were wreaking havoc on my body that I fought so hard to keep living in.
Rediscovering resistance bands was one thing that jump-started my body’s recovery and really began to heal my injuries and imbalances without pushing it too hard (and I had no intention of being as big as the Incredible Hulk). Resistance bands are an unappreciated piece of exercise equipment. So many get sucked into believing that the more expensive, the better. Truth be told, bands are great! Think of them as one step up from bodyweight exercises and super nurturing to your joints!
How do resistance bands work?
Unlike weights, resistance bands don’t rely on gravity. The more you stretch the bands, the more they resist your movement. Want to work harder? Increase the stretch in the band! When you work with a free weight, you can only go as far as your joint will allow. With a band, create more resistance and you have just increased your workout. I love resistance bands because you can get way more creative than you can with weights. And they are so portable!
Here are some of my current favorite moves when it comes to working with resistance bands:
Resistance Band Exercises
Foot Work with Resistance Bands
Place a tied resistance band about the length of your forearm and place it over the balls of your feet. Stretch the band just enough so there is no slack. Keeping a tall body (no rib thrusting or booty pushing), start to march in place. Really work to lift your knee without leaning back or tipping forward. March in place 30 times.
Next ground into one leg and keep a strong neutral rotation on the leg (pit of the back of the knee pointing back and on dumping into the hip), engage your glute and press out with the opposite leg for a lateral lift. Think about kicking out with the heel, not the toes (almost like internal rotation). Do this 10-20 times on each side.
Resistance Band Arm Workout
Standing strong in neutral, feet grounded and no rib thrusting. Place your fists inside the tied off resistance band. First anchor your elbows at your sides and press out with both fists (the movement comes from the elbow) on an exhalation.
Try this for 10-20 times. Next keeping your upper body strong and stable pull one fist up and one fist down, like your arms are marching in place. Do this 10-20 times. Finally pull your fists diagonally and then back to center 10-20 times. Notice which arm is stronger and tune into making sure you don’t dominate the movements with that stronger arm.
Resistance Band Exercises for Hips and Glutes
This was a lifesaver for me because my left hip and hamstring weren’t cooperating, and my right glute was weak (very unstable pulley system). Place the tied off resistance band around your ankles (shoes optional) and walk 30 paces forward and back in the following ways:
Wide Monster Strides (pull the band as wide as you can comfortably and walk forward and back)
Normal Walk (Walk in a normal hips distance and stretch the band with enough resistance when you walk)
Diagonal Walk (Step to the right one foot at a time, then to the left, alternating forward and back)
Sideways Walker (Create a slight squat and step foot to foot to the right, then to the left)
So many think their workout has to be at the gym in workout clothes and X minutes long to be “worth it.” Here’s the thing: I carry my bands with me in my car. Yes, I do a three-minute workout here or there and it all adds up! To step out of the box, you have to start to think out of the box!
And you might as well add resistance bands into that thinking too!
Don’t have bands? I got you covered! Grab this kit and join me!