Foot cramps are a fairly common and unpleasant problem that effects many people in Pilates classes. Painful and debilitating they can effect almost anyone at sometime or another, although some people seem to be more susceptible then others.
Why Do We Get Cramps?
Well the truth is no one is entirely sure what causes cramps in the feet. There are lots of things that may contribute including dehydration, magnesium and potassium deficiency, poor circulation and fatigue, ill fitting footwear and finally poor technique and tension. Lets have a look at some of these more closely.
Dehydration is one of the most common and popular theories for foot cramps. Make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day drinking plenty of water. Sports drinks can also be drank. This can be beneficial as they are enhanced with electrolytes and often minerals like magnesium and potassium which are also linked to cramps.
Deficiencies in magnesium and potassium have also been linked to foot cramps. Make sure you eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables and foods rich in minerals and vitamins.
Potassium rich foods - Bananas, Orange juice, Raisins, Dried apricots, Spinach, Avocados and Mushrooms.
Magnesium rich foods - Bananas, Dried Figs, Cashews, Pumpkin Seeds, Avocados and Dark Chocolate.
If you suffer with foot cramps try adding some of these to your diet with plenty of water. Make sure on the day of your class that you are well hydrated and maybe snack on some of the above like seeds, nuts and a banana throughout the day.
This I believe may be one of the main causes! that is not to say by any manor or means that if you suffer with cramps that you are not executing your Pilates moves correctly. A beginner to Pilates may never suffer or an advanced person with superb technique may get them on a regular basis. If you have addressed the above dietary issues and are still suffering then have a little think about the following.
I used to suffer quite badly with cramps in my feet when I first started doing Pilates and now they are a very rare occurrence. As I got more to grips with mastering the fundamentals of Pilates, and lets face it there is a lot to think about, my cramps started to disappear. As I got stronger, more flexible and fluent with my movements my cramps slowly reduced. I now hardly ever have a cramp! If I do now I normally put down to being a bit dehydrated.
The feet are very important and often overlooked and only ever considered when we tell them to flex or point! As an instructor I am sometimes guilty of not paying enough attention to how this is done. When done incorrectly and coupled with tension in the leg muscles like the calfs, this can cause the feet to cramp. Try not to point and flex the feet so strongly from the toes. Think more of moving the foot from the ankle, keeping a softer less tense line through the foot. Try not to curl the toe in tightening your heel thus tightening your calf.
Rolling back is often a common time to cramp when there are lots of things to think about. Holding your shape whilst balancing on your sit bones with the legs pulled in tight and the toes pointed to the ground! If this is a prime time for you, concentrate on your technique and shape for a while allowing your feet to be soft with no pointing. Then softly reintroduce some pointing back into the feet working from the ankle. If you suffer quite badly with this then try wrapping your arms around your thighs allowing your lower leg to hang a little softer over your arms.
Another reason that I think that technique has a lot to do with it is most people tend to cramp towards the end of a session when they are beginning to tire a little or when sometimes a more challenging move is done!
With time, practice and experience, making sure you have a well balanced hydrated diet! hopefully your cramps will become a thing of the past as they are for me.