Why Do My Legs Cramp in the Pool?

February 14, 2024

Getting cramp in the pool can be a major setback for any swimmer especially those who are participating in races. It reduces your ability to swim and in serious cases can cause you to drown. The good news is that cramp is not inevitable and there are a number of preventative measures you can take to avoid them.

Cramp is an involuntary muscle spasm causing intense pain and knotting of the muscles. It is not a result of overuse and can happen in any muscle group including the legs. Often the feet, ankles and calves are affected by cramping. Cramping is common in swimming as it is a full body cardiovascular exercise that calls on almost all the muscles in your body. It can also cause overuse injuries so it’s important to strengthen the muscles and learn when to give them a rest.

The cramping that swimmers get is very similar to the cramps experienced by other athletes and has even been given a name ‘Exercise Associated Muscle Cramps’ or EAMC. The main risk factor for cramping is dehydration and the body being unable to supply enough oxygen to the muscles.

Other factors that can lead to cramping are the temperature of the pool (hotter pools have a higher risk) or moving straight into a workout or race without allowing your body to adapt to the water temperature. In addition, too little potassium, calcium and magnesium in your diet can contribute to cramping. Drinking a sports drink with electrolytes like sodium, potassium and calcium prior to your swim is also a helpful measure.

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