I had a training client who raced a 70.3 this past weekend. He had a great swim but the moment he came out of the water and began to swim towards T1, his right calf cramped up. He collapsed on the ground and had to wait 5 minutes to massage away the pain. When he got up, it cramped again but not as severely. He limped into T1 and fortunately was fine for the rest of the race, which he finished in 4:50 despite his struggles. After the race, he texted me what happened and asked for my thoughts.
Of course, the typical “You need to get more electrolytes and minerals” crossed my mind. It would make sense that he sweated out a lot of minerals when in the water; however, I do not think this was the case. I actually think it was his wetsuit.
Many people overlook the fact that when you swim with a wetsuit, which you typically do not do for every practice, it puts pressure and strain on muscles that typically do not get such treatment especially the calves. Then, when you further stress these muscles in a race and do not allow them to fully contract, it causes cramping. The same logic applies to when peoples’ calves cramp when they use fins.
Fortunately, there is an easy solution: cut your wetsuit. Many wetsuits, including the BlueSeventy line, are designed to be cut. If you look at the legs of your wetsuit, there is a seam that goes up the back of the calf. You can cut any part of the leg off up until the end of that seam and not damage your wetsuit. By cutting your wetsuit to higher up the calf, you will not restrict the movement of the calf nor put as much pressure on it (Note: cutting the legs can also help peel off the wetsuit more quickly).
If your calves cramp when you race, consider causes beyond electrolytes, and let us know if this works.
Coach Chris and Kev