This week's column:
How To Avoid Cramps?
Aug. 3, 2011
Hey, Bill: During my last marathon, I got a cramp on the inside of my knee with five miles to go. This cost me dearly as I lost the main pack on the last lap. I thought I had warmed up properly. But now I’m not so sure. What warm-up would you recommend to help avoid pulled muscles and cramps? - Michal in the UK
Hi, Michal: Are you sure it was a cramp? A cramp is a muscle contraction, not often associated with the knee. In fact, I have never known a skater to get a cramp on the inside of the knee.
Recently, a skater of the Indonesian team complained to me about frequent shin cramps. But again, I doubt cramps was the issue. More likely, this skater’s problem was compartment syndrome, in which muscles outgrow their sheaths and thus restrict blood flow.
Compartment syndrome is a serious condition that can lead to muscle and nerve damage. But it’s probably not what’s going on with you. More likely, your pain is caused by a strained ligament or a pinched nerve. But the only way to be sure is to get checked out by a doctor — and not just a general practitioner. For this kind of injury, you need to see a specialist in sports medicine and injuries.
As for how to warm up for a marathon, that’s easy. Skate or jog a bit to get your muscles warm. Then do some stretching. You don’t have to do too much warming up because you have plenty of time during the course of a marathon to limber up. A warm-up for a 200-meter time trial can take an hour. But a warm-up for a marathon need only last 15 minutes.
One thing to remember is to drink plenty of fluids not only before but during your marathon. Dehydration can definitely cause cramps, although probably not in the inside of your knee.
Hope you get this figured out soon.