How to Prevent Leg Cramps in Swimmers

A leg cramp can quickly ruin your workout -- leaving you clutching your leg on the side of a pool only an instant after you have been blissfully swimming. Even the most experienced swimmers occasionally get leg cramps, but a healthy lifestyle and a gradual build-up to intense swimming can help you limit their frequency.

Stretching and Warm-Ups

If you rush into a workout, your body might punish you with a nasty leg cramp. Warm up by taking a few leisurely laps around the pool before you start your real workout. Stretching can also help reduce your risk of leg cramps, but make sure you don't overstretch to the point of pain. Complete a brief stretching routine after every swim.

Good Hydration and Nutrition

Dehydration makes it harder for your body to pass nutrients to your muscles and organs, and this can quickly cause your legs to cramp up. If you're hungry or malnourished, you may struggle with pain. Swimmers may not notice that they're sweating and thirsty because they're in water, but you still need to drink plenty of water before and after your workout. Electrolyte drinks and energy bars can help you replace the nutrients you'll lose when you swim.

Preventing Fatigue and Cold

Exhaustion can cause your muscles to cramp up, so avoid overexerting yourself, particularly when you begin a new swimming routine. Stick to regular workouts three to five times a week, and focus on building endurance so you can exercise harder and longer. Some swimmers also find that they get tired more quickly in cold water, and this can cause cramps. If you're among those swimmers, work out in a heated pool.

Massaging Inflamed Tissue

A new workout routine can leave your muscles aching and can even cause minor injuries. If you experience muscle pain after swimming, gently massage the affected area, focusing on loosening up muscle knots. Don't return to swimming until the pain subsides. Instead, continue massage two to three times a day to increase blood flow to the area and promote healing.

About the Author

Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.