How to Avoid Cramping During Indoor Cycling
When it comes to indoor cycling, cramps are a common cause of annoyance for many. They are not just uncomfortable, but they can completely stop us in our tracks and even force us to get off the bike and suffer it out. We also find there’s a mental side to cramps. When you start to worry about getting them, it can negatively affect us and put us off wanting to cycle or train for an indoor cycling race.
Indoor cycling can cause exercise associated muscle cramps and there are many reasons that promote it such as electrolyte imbalance from incorrect fluid balance, heat stress from hot and humid conditions, neuromuscular fatigue, and even poor salt intake.
What is a Calf, Quad, and Food Cramp?
A cramped muscle is a sudden or involuntary muscle contraction of a muscle or group of muscles. If you have ever had cramping problems before, they are very painful and make it impossible to use an affected muscle for a certain amount of time. Many people struggle with them, which is a common problem in indoor cycling.
The causes of cramps typically come from mineral depletion, inadequate blood supply to the muscles, and nerve compression. Unfortunately, there’s not just a straightforward fix because many different things can cause cramps while cycling at home. Not a vast amount is known about the causes of cramps, and causes differ significantly for many people.
The cause may be different for many people, so we need to think about different solutions overall that will help reduce the chance of getting a cramp for many of us while spinning indoors. In this article, we will give you 5 easy steps on how to minimize the chance of getting cramps during indoor cycling exercise.
Step One: Don’t Overdo Your Spinning Workout
It’s very easy when you get an indoor bike or turbo trainer to train much more than you usually would. As it’s typically in your house, you feel like you should use it. We keep returning to challenge ourselves, but sometimes we take it a little too far. This is commonly known as muscle fatigue.
If you want to avoid cramps, start by building up to the sessions you want to do. For example, if you are used to riding a single hour but want to ride for three, you need to build up to it. Maybe try half an hour longer each week until you hit three hours. Going too hard and exerting yourself too much is a common cause of cramps for many people.
This happens for a variety of reasons. It could be sitting on the bike for too long. It could be not drinking enough. It could be a lack of essential minerals or even just tight muscles. Attacking your body with sessions it’s not ready for is not ideal when avoiding cramps.
Step Two: Stretch Before an Cycling Session
Sometimes it’s common just to get cramps, and for many of us, stretching is a huge help. If you happen to get leg cramps, just taking a minute to stretch it off can reduce the pain very quickly. It’s an ideal way of helping a very uncomfortable situation. Stretching is an excellent way to create normally efficient neuromuscular pathways and stop leg cramps or unwanted muscle cramping.
It might even be a good idea to start stretching that area while you are off the exercise bike. If you typically suffer from cramps, for example, a calf cramp, it might be good to stretch it in your cooldown to help loosen it, so it has less chance of a leg cramp in future sessions. Stretching before and after a cycling workout can free the nerves, help with blood flow and improve flexibility which all in turn help . If you have suffered cramps before, a little stretching is a small price to pay to prevent muscle cramps in the future.
Step Three: Have a Hydration Strategy For Cycling at Home
We all sweat, and when we sweat, our body keeps itself cool. It’s is a reaction that happens subconsciously, and typically we all have different rates of how much we sweat. Some of us sweat buckets while on the bike, and others sweat a little. No matter how much we sweat, we are losing water, and without our body having enough water to stay cool, it doesn’t perform effectively.
Being dehydrated while cycling at home or in the cycling class is a huge issue not just for cramp prevention but for performance in general. You always want to make sure you have a water bottle handy while you’re indoor cycling. Depending on how much you sweat, you might need more or less, but personally, I aim to get at least 500ml every hour that I’m riding indoors. You’re also going to want to make sure you stay as cool as possible to try and stop your body from excessive sweating and keep your hydration at an optimum level to help avoid cramp.
Step Four: Work on a Nutrition Strategy For Training
We can drink all the water we need, but sometimes our bodies need a little more than fluids to perform appropriately and stop issues like cramps while cycling. Although there’s very little research on the subject, many people have found that getting more certain minerals and eating the right nutrition for cycling indoors helps reduce the number of cramps they have and sometimes stops them all together.
If you suffer from cramps, it is advised to focus on getting more Sodium and Potassium. Before making too many changes to your diet, we recommend seeking a professional, but typically people find adding Sodium and Pottasium to their diets does help with cramps.
Many people turn to foods such as crisps or anything reasonably salty for sodium. Sodium helps regulate the concentration of bodily fluids outside the cells. Potassium can be found in foods such as bananas, and this is why you will see so many cyclists leave the house with a banana in their back pocket. Potassium helps regulate the bodily fluids inside the cells.
Another solution to this issue is to take electrolyte tablets. These are designed to help with your hydration and come in the form of a tablet or powder that you put in your drink. They have sodium and potassium in, and for some cyclists help a lot. Electrolyte drinks can benefit you so much and help avoid fluid loss and electrolyte imbalances.
Step Five: Set up Your Indoor Cycling Bike Correctly
Yeah, it sounds crazy, but many people get cramps because they are not correctly set up on the bike. It’s very common to find you will get cramps when you’re cycling in the wrong position as you’re stretching too much further you need to be. For example, having your bike seat too high would cause you to over stretch the calf, which commonly causes a cramp there.
If you still suffer when you have had a fit for your bike, strength training is another way of helping reduce cramps. Doing a few squats, lunges, and some mobility training will go a long way to open up those muscles and get them strong, which can help reduce cramps.
Muscle cramps are not ideal, and it’s challenging to find out why you might be getting them. I believe though, if you follow these steps here, you will reduce the chance of getting a cramp and avoid unwanted muscle contractions, and it is going to really benefit your training.
If you are suffering heavily with cramps and they are stopping you from getting on the bike, there could be an underline cause, and we do advise seeing a doctor and making sure everything is ok.