Charley Bit Me!

I’m referring to charley, the horse, not Charlie the baby — a charley horse!

This past Sunday I ran my first road race of 2011, the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run. I finished within my projected time at 1:29:43 (I might have / probably would have PR’d if I didn’t have to use the porta-potty at the 4th mile, but that’s life).

Here are some fun running stats via RunPix.

Anyway, about 2 minutes after I crossed the finish line, I experienced one of the most debilitating charley horses of my life in my right calf. To my surprise, I was not the only one to have experienced this post-race.

So naturally, I Googled it and I shall share my findings here.

The 4 Ws [Ref: NYTimes]

What: A charley horse is usually referred to as a muscle spasm that occurs in the leg.

Where: Calf or thigh.

When/Why: 1) Muscle is overused. 2) Muscle is injured. 3) Dehydration. 4) Low levels of potassium or calcium.

Given these choices, I’m pretty sure my calf muscle was overused (especially with the style of running I practice), I was very likely dehydrated, and also low on potassium. One banana ain’t gonna cut it for 90 minutes of running! I shall see if I can prevent this in the future.

Tips for controlling the cramp via TopEndSports:

the muscle is trying to contract violently. Muscles will never stop a contraction in the middle, it has an “all or nothing” system. A muscle fiber contracts fully, or not at all. If you try to stretch it out, while the muscle is trying to contract, you will tear fibers. You need to assist the muscle in its contraction BEFORE you can stretch it without injury.

When the muscle goes into this cramp, tightly grab your calf with your hands: one hand at the top of the calf, just below the knee; and the other hand at the bottom of the muscle, at the top of the achilles tendon just above the ankle. Now, help the muscle complete it’s contraction by pushing your hands together. This will be extremely painful, but only for a few seconds. Next, just release your hands, and then replace them in the same positions. Now, again push your hands together, this time it won’t hurt nearly as much. You are now assisting any last fibers to finish their contraction. Take a few breathes, get back your oxygen that was lost while you were breathing heavily during the pain.

Now you can safely stretch the muscle.

Further Reading:

Here’s to future races without cramps or spasms!

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