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how do i keep my legs from tightening or cramping during long runs?

I've been a "runner" for a couple of years now. I stay hydrated throughout my routes, and if I'm doing a longer run, I bring energy chews or gel with me to take every 45 minutes. Problem is that right around 6 miles or so (I'm slower, so for me that's about 1hr15min.) my legs start tightening up and eventually cramp around mile 9 or so. I was just wondering if anyone knows what else I could do to eliminate the tighteness and the cramping?

6 answers

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JennPenn, several questions and let's see where we go from there:

How many times do you run each week?
How often do you do long runs?
What percentage of your weekly mileage is made up of these long runs?
Have you tried different gel/chew brands?
Have you tried not taking gels/chews on one of your long runs?
How much water are you consuming during the long runs?
Have you tried replacing water with G2 or something like that?


5 years ago

Wow...yeah lots of questions. Let's see if I can answer them all.

This is what my typical week looks like right now:

Mondays- strength training
Tuesdays- 5 mile run + cardio & core videos (60 min.)
Wednesdays- cardio & core videos (60min.)
Thursdays- OFF (sometimes do Friday's here and shorter run friday and off sat.)
Fridays- 5 mile run + strength training
Saturday- cardio & core videos(60min.)
Sunday- Long run- increase a mile each week and have gone as far as a 15K so far.

I have tried different brands, doesn't seem to make a difference. I like the chews because they're easier, less messy, and taste better. i have tried not taking anything and they still stiffen up. I drink a few sips of water about every couple of miles. I haven't tried replacing the water with G2, though.

JennPerry 2k
5 years ago

OK, thanks. Sorry for all of the questions, but if we were face-to-face I'd probably ask even more (thank goodness that didn't happen - I haven't been in Beloit for quite a few years).

You're running 5 miles on your other 2 days of running and that's pretty good relative to the 9 or so your doing on your long day. A lot of running gurus recommend the long run be no more than 25-33% of your weekly mileage. Your long mileage day is above that, so this could be the issue, but it isn't the thing that jumps out at me the most. What I see is most likely a hydration issue.

Try more than a few sips every couple of miles. The every couple of miles isn't an problem, but the volume of water might be. If you're starting out a little dehydrated and not taking in much (which a few sips isn't much), feeling muscle cramps towards the latter half of a long run should almost be expected. Try gradually adding more sips each time as suddenly increasing the water volume taken in during a run rarely feels good.

Another thing to consider is replacing water with a G2 or G2-like product, maybe even at half-strength. Because I'm about the cheapest guy around, I buy powder and mix my drinks, but even if it's a liquid drink (what drink isn't liquid?) I still dillute them because I can't handle the taste at full strength. But not everyone has to do that.

Finally, examine your liquid intake throughout the rest of the day. Cramping towards the end of a longer workout could be a result if you have a tendency to stay slightly dehydrated all of the time.

Hope these suggestions help. Let me know if they do or do not.


5 years ago

More sweet potatoes! I know it sounds a little too simple but if your technique is in order with your workouts this is a nutrition/ hydration issue like Art said.
I do about the same amount of mileage per week and can feel when my nutrition is slipping because the consequences are about 6 miles into my long run.

Perfect form only exists in heaven~
Ryan Hall

Josh Favreau 108
5 years ago

Thanks for your input Art & Josh! I know I need to increase my water intake throughout the day, so I will do that and use the G2 and see if that helps. Someone had mentioned to me possibly taking salt tabs? I do sweat quite a bit when I work out, so do you think that could be a factor as well? Just curious. Thanks again!

JennPerry 2k
5 years ago

I seriously doubt salt tabs are needed. Salt tabs came about in the 60's and 70's and basically faded away when Gatorade arrived on the scene. There is so much salt in our food already it's quite the endeavor to eliminate it. I'd try more water and electrolyte replacement drinks first, and if nothing helps by then MAYBE ask a doctor if the salt tabs would be needed.

5 years ago

add your answer!

JennPerry member since Aug '11


MemberBeloit, WI
4/16/2012 at 11:17 AM