Is It OK to Push Through Cramping During a Race?

Q: Hi Gale, I was reading an article on you wrote about pushing through pain. One thing I was curious about that I didn't see in the article was riding through cramps. For some reason or another my gracilis or groin (Same? Different? I don't know?) cramps up on long, tough rides and races. I'm not sure why. Any insight you can lend would be helpful on the cramping issue.

Additionally, I am curious if they do (both left and right) cramp up is it OK to keep on pushing through the cramp pain? Will I do any muscle damage if I keep going?

More: When to Push Past the Pain in Triathlon Training

A: Muscle cramps can be very annoying, and of course, debilitating. The exact cause of thigh cramping, and how to prevent cramping in athletic events isn't clear. When looking at solutions and recommendations for athletic cramps, it's important to look at other causes of cramps.

What is a Cramp?

Muscle cramps are typically defined as sudden, painful, involuntary contractions or over-shortening of muscles.

Paraphysiological Cramps

This type of cramping is associated with physical exercise and occurs in sports or other exercise such as domestic chores. These cramps often occur when an athlete is not accustomed to the duration or intensity of a particular exercise, including domestic chores such as spring yard work.

Many people find that an eight- to 12-hour day working in the yard can cause muscle cramping. A sudden bump in an activity like yard work can cause the same kind of cramping discomfort that occurs when you ramp up your athletic training too quickly.

Interestingly, many athletes will find that bad cramping during a Saturday afternoon yard extravaganza will cause their muscles to be "twitchy" during a ride or run the next day. This next-day twitchiness shows up in training as well. If you've put in a tough day on the bike on Saturday and experienced cramping, your Sunday ride intensity will likely be compromised.

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