Our resident Olympian answers your swimming questions
I’m a 64-year-old bloke who has recently taken up outdoor swimming. During the winter months I am lucky enough to swim in a lagoon in Egypt. I have no ambitions to enter competitions, I just want to enjoy myelf and usually swim a mile. My enjoyment is being hampered by cramp in one calf. I feel I could do more without the cramp getting in the way!
Cramp is the bane of many swimmers’ lives! Having suffered from it myself several times I feel for you. Cramp can be caused by dehydration; excessive strain placed on leg muscles, such as when exercising; or a sudden restriction in the blood supply to the affected muscles. It is important
to keep in mind tendons naturally shorten over time as a person gets older, which may explain why older people are particularly affected by leg cramps. If your tendons become too short, they may cause the muscles connected to them to cramp.
My suggestions are to make sure you’re well hydrated, especially as you are lucky enough to be in the warmth of Egypt. Try not to just drink water, as sometimes too much can cause you to wash your salts out of your system. Instead try a weak cordial with a pinch of salt in it to act as a ‘holding agent’.
Before swimming, spend five minutes warming up your lower half to promote blood supply to your legs. Gentle leg swinging is a perfect pre- swim warm up. Finally, try to relax your kick a little. If you are tense then you are more likely to suffer from cramp.