How to relieve running leg cramps is a question that comes up often. Cramps can literally ruin your race and boy can they be painful.
There are several ways to stop the cramp when it rears its ugly head but also try and understand why your suffer from leg cramps in the first place and how you can prevent them coming back.
Imagine this scenario.......
You have just hit the half way point in your marathon or race and you start to feel one or both calves twitching or tightening. You ignore it, after all you are trying to get a PB or at least finish the race. Over time, the twitching and tightening becomes more frequent and then it starts to become painful so that you actually have to slow down. Eventually the pain is so bad that your calves actually feel like they have locked up and you have to stop running immediately.
Sound kind of familiar?
The first thing to when you feel the cramp starting, is to stop running and to try and relax the contracted muscle. If you are doing a race, this can seem devastating to you but it might help you at least finish the race.
Then you need to do a process called reciprocal inhibition technique.
What this means is that you FIRST need to contract the opposite muscle (shin bone muscle in this case) so that the contracted muscle (calf muscle) can be relaxed and thus relieve the cramp.
It sounds complicated but once you do it once you'll automatically know how to repeat it.
Do it correctly: Try to think about contracting the opposite muscle first, rather than trying to just stretch the cramped muscle. If you stretch an already cramped muscle, you risk doing more damage to the muscle and you are more likely to have sore muscles over the next few days.
Case history: I had terrible calf cramps during a race - in both calves at the same time. Not fun. I was forced to lie on the ground whilst 2 kind runners (one on each foot!) pressed my foot hard against my shin bone. This definitely relieved the cramp but my calf muscles were REALLY sore for at least a week afterwards.
This same procedure can be done for hamstring cramps too. Concentrate on contracting your thigh muscle in order for the cramped hamstring to relax.
If you find yourself on the ground with cramp, the procedure is the same as the above. Contract the opposing muscle so that the cramped muscle relaxes.
Below is a good video which shows you how to relieve running leg cramps in your calves, hamstrings and toes whilst in the sitting position.