Muscle cramps can be a debilitating ailment for any athlete. For obstacle racing competitors it can be race-ending because around every corner is another obstacle that requires your full muscular strength to complete.
One of the most basic tips for muscle cramp prevention is to focus on your running form prior to the race. As fatigue sets in and form breaks down, more demand is placed on the musculoskeletal system and this may lead to cramping. The more focus you place on your form, the more likely your body is to naturally use that correct form, even as your body fatigues. Runners World offered a great resource on perfecting your form, The Perfect Form.
You should also consider foam rolling your larger muscle groups 30 minute before your race begins. This will increase circulation and relieve muscular tension.
Although we should always focus on hydration, the week before the race is a crucial time to stay hydrated and focus on supplementing your electrolytes; sodium chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Stay away from sugary sports drinks and instead look into electrolyte tablets.
Check out this popular electrolyte tablet: https://nuunlife.com/
A few days before and especially the night prior to the race, you should also focus on consuming a few grams of extra carbohydrates. There is a finite amount of carbohydrate stored as glycogen in our muscles to provide the energy to exercise and once that store of glycogen has been exhausted, we are at high risk for muscle cramps (this is also why it is also important to replenish your glycogen stores when competing in races that last longer than 60-90 minutes).
The morning of a race, you should consume a breakfast that is made up of about 80% carbohydrate, low in fat and protein. Adding a banana and sprinkling some sea salt over your pre-race meal may be a good idea as well because sodium and potassium both play major roles in regulating fluids in your body and in muscular contractions.
ON COURSE NUTRITION
Prior to the race, study the course map and take a look at where the hydration stations are located. Based off of those stations, pack your fuel and hydration accordingly. Plan on consuming about 1 energy gel every 60-90 minutes, but be sure to practice using these gels prior to race day to avoid G.I. upset.
It also smart to pack a mustard packet, a shot of pickle juice or anything containing vinegar. These solutions will come to your aid if you end up cramping during the race. These condiments contain acetic acid, which forces the body to produce more acetylcholine – a neurotransmitter which then pushes muscles to exert power and start working to the max.
As you cross the finish line, grab a banana, an electrolyte rich drink, and a snack with about 20g of protein. Take the time to properly stretch out and then find a place to put your feet up as you rehydrate.
Once you get home from the race, draw an ice bath and soak your aching muscles for 5-10 minutes. Continue pushing fluids and eating small meals through out the day. You should also plan on foam rolling and stretching before bed. If you wake up with muscle cramps during the night, reach for a mustard packet and a glass of water.
Hopefully this will help in the prevention of on course and post race muscle cramps. Good luck out there!!