You are in the middle of a swimming competition and you are thoroughly enjoying being in the water and floating your way ahead of others. The realization that you are soon to be declared the winner thrills you to the core. Suddenly, you feel a sharp pain at the muscle near the sole of your foot and you find it extremely difficult to move forward. If you are learning and practicing swimming for quite some time now, you must have definitely gone through this nightmarish situation at some point of time. Foot cramp happens to be a very common problem that affects swimmers and it can occur anytime during your swim, irrespective of whether you are in the pool or in the open water, just practicing or taking part in a competition. While the pain goes away within a few minutes of stretching your muscles, the sudden attack remains a cause of anxiety.
Why Do Foot Cramps Occur?
Well, there are certain ways in which foot cramps can be avoided to a certain extent to ensure that the swimmer has a very smooth session. But before that, let us understand why is foot cramp so common among swimmers and how does it occur?
Experts at the Sugar Land swim school are of the view that fatigue and overuse of the muscles are the main causes behind the cramping of the foot muscles. Alongside, if the swimmer is suffering from dehydration or an electrolyte deficit, the muscle becomes tight from the previous swim session, thereby, maximizing the chance of foot cramps.
To be more precise, foot cramps occur when internally, there is a cramp in the plantar fascia, which is basically a fibrous and connective tissue surrounding the muscles in the sole of the foot. The plantar fascia stretches from the toes to the heel and coordinates closely with the three main calf muscles located at the back of the lower leg. These calf muscles, namely the gastrocnemius, the soleus and the tibalis posterior, help you in pointing the foot and the toes during kicking and streamlining. A cramp in any of these muscles ends up causing a cramp in the sole of the foot or the lower leg as a whole.
Ways of Preventing Foot Cramps
There are two main ways in which swimmers can avoid foot cramps. First, you should make it a point to stay hydrated and hydration here, not only implies taking in a lot of water but also focusing on an intake of electrolytes and the right things that eventually prepare your body for training and swimming.
Secondly, you should take up muscle stretches and workouts that help in increasing the flexibility of your muscles. Workout sessions should necessarily be incorporated in the warm-up and warm-down phases of the pool sessions.
Particular Muscle Stretches You Should Perform
Since exercising is the main way in which you can stay away from the problem, here is a list of some must-try stretches for both the individual muscles of the calf and the foot.
- Try the Gastrocnemius stretch by leaning against the wall while standing with one leg in front of the other. Keep your back leg straight and bend your front leg. Let your heels be placed on the floor till you feel the stretch in the muscle of the lower leg between your knee and heel.
- For the Soleus Stretch, take the same position and bend both the knees to transfer the weight to your back leg. The heel of your back leg should be on the floor till you feel the stretching in the muscle of your lower leg.
- The Plantar Fascia Stretch is performed in the same way. The difference is that you have to place the toes of your front foot up against a raised platform. In this exercise, the stretch should necessarily be felt in the sole of the front foot.
Hold each of these stretches for about 2 minutes at an interval of 10, 20 and 30 seconds.
Consult your physician if you suffer way too much from foot cramping even after following the essential tips discussed here.