Slow down to avoid falls if your leg starts to cramp up.
There you are, trying to improve your cardio fitness on a treadmill, when sudden pain in your calf leaves you doubled over and scrambling for the "off" button. If it sounds familiar, you're probably suffering from calf cramps, which often attack unsuspecting walkers and runners when their legs are overworked. By understanding where the pain is coming from and how to stop it, your next treadmill workout doesn't have to be interrupted.
Consider the Risks
The treadmill can seem like a harmless piece of gym equipment - after all, anyone can walk. But calf cramps can disrupt your workout and cause you pain and danger. Falling could be a dangerous occurrence, especially if your treadmill is set to a fast walk, jogging or running speed when a cramp derails you. You may also experience some next-day muscle pain after having a leg cramp, so slowing your treadmill and dealing with the pain quickly can help you get back on the horse - er, treadmill - again.
Determine the Cause
Calf cramps can be the result of a couple of different issues, but Martin Schwellnus, a researcher from the Department of Human Biology at the University of Cape Town, says he blames "twitchy muscles" that are overly tired. When your muscles are fatigued, they can cramp and feel tight, resulting in pain on the treadmill. Other issues could be dehydration and a sodium and potassium deficiency, both which are known to cause muscles cramps.
Dehydration, along with sodium and potassium deficiency, can often lead to cramped muscles, so hydration should be a priority before, during and after your treadmill workout. First, the American Council on Exercise suggests drinking 8 ounces of fluid 20 to 30 minutes before your workout, then 7 to 10 ounces for every 10 to 20 minutes of exercise. You'll then need 8 ounces after you're finished. If you plan on being on the treadmill for more than 90 minutes, swap your water for a sports drink, which can help replace the potassium and sodium lost through sweat.
Walk it Off
The only thing you can do for cramps in the moment is to slow down the treadmill and step off. Stretching and massage can help the cramp go away, but you may still have some lingering pain. PhysioAdvisor.com suggests massaging your calf and doing some walking to help relieve pain, noting that a heat compress can also help you deal. Try reducing the treadmill to a slow walking speed and walking for a few minutes to help soothe the pain. After your workout, take special care to stretch your calf muscles - stand near a wall and put your hands flat on the wall while you step back with one foot and press your heel into the ground. Then, when you get home, you can try a heating pad.
Prevent More Cramps
The best way to deal with calf cramps on the treadmill is through prevention. Because dehydration and sodium and potassium deficiency can often lead to crampy muscles, stay hydrated or down an electrolyte drink when you feel a cramp starting. Stretching can also help improve calf flexibility for more limber muscles. PhysioAdvisor.com suggests sitting with one leg straight in front of you, with your opposite knee bent and your foot resting lightly against the knee of your straightened leg. Grab a towel and loop it around the foot of your straightened leg and tug back gently to feel a stretch in you calf. Hold for five to 10 seconds and then switch legs.