Why can cramp occur when doing Pilates?
Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Having taught Pilates for nearly 14 years I have regularly come across clients who experience cramp in classes. They often ask me why does it occur and what can they do to help it.
Cramp is caused by painful involuntary spasms especially of smaller muscles in the lower legs and feet so if the toes are over pointing or there is too much muscle contraction in the lower legs or calves then this can trigger cramp. Factors that may affect cramping muscles include fatigue, lack of flexibility, exercising in the heat, and imbalances of the electrolytes in the blood.
So here are a few things you can bear in mind to try and help:
1) Increase your Magnesium and Potassium levels by eating more foods with high levels of these such as bananas, almonds, raisins and dried figs or taking a supplement. Potassium especially is important for muscle contraction.
2) Make sure you are nicely hydrated before the class - miss out caffeine and, instead, drink a few glasses of water before coming to the class. Also bring a bottle so you can sip water throughout the Pilates session.
3) Be aware of what your body is doing during each exercise. When activating the legs in certain Pilates movements try to focus higher up the leg rather than below the knee. Try not to grip, curl or point the toes. Sometimes it can be the newness of exercises that can trigger the cramp when the body is not used to, or familiar with the positions. In the Shoulder Bridge, for instance, try wriggling the toes to release tension and reduce gripping. Focus on the core, pelvis, glutes and inner thighs instead.
4) Try warming up and stretching your feet regularly either at the beginning of the class or in the evening with your feet up. You could try rolling each foot around on a small ball to stimulate the soles and arches of the feet.
I hope you found this article of interest and here's hoping that the cramp you may experience is short-lived and certainly doesn't outweigh the many benefits that Pilates provides.
Sara Rounce's Pilates career started in Aberdeen, Scotland in 2003. She has since become a specialist in Women's Fitness and is Founder of The Wellwoman Fitness Foundation. She is now based in Surrey in the UK.