Other, Training

Dealing with Muscle Cramps During GORUCK

Below is my subjective experience in dealing with cramping during GORUCK events. This is what worked for me. I’m neither a doctor nor a scientist, so take it for what it’s worth.

(TL:DR – I use SaltStick and mustard. It worked for me. No cramps.)

A Little Context

To set the stage, I occasionally deal with cramping during endurance events. The worst cramp experience I’ve ever had was during the 9/11 GORUCK Heavy in DC. Despite my hydration plan of preloading prior to the event, and use of hydration and Nuun electrolyte during the event, I cramped BAD.

During our morning PT session with Brian Squared, my arms cramped so badly I couldn’t do push-ups and could barely move my arms to get the knots out.

The cramps got worse as the day wore on. Any time we stopped, my abs, back, and arms would take turns locking up on me. Sitting down was a luxury I would not have during our breaks the last few hours.

The Latest Battle

Fast forward to my recent HTL in Philly.

Coming into the event, I knew there was a probability that the temperatures would be similar to those I encountered in DC and that I needed a new approach to fighting off cramping issues as the Nuun tabs were not the solution for me.

After talking to some friends, I was introduced to SaltStick capsules. I read the reviews and it seemed like it might be a good solution. I ordered a bottle and began to test them out to see how my body reacted (because you should always test out your gear/supplies before your event).  After a few non-ruck trials, I used them on a longer Saturday ruck. Everything seemed fine.

So, for my HTL, in addition to my pre-event and event hydration, I took 1 Salt Stick capsule every 3-4 hours (the bottle says to not take more than 10 per 24 hours).

This seemed to stave off the majority of my cramps. However, there were a few times when I started to feel my calves and/or hamstring fire like they might be about to cramp. In those instances, I broke out 2 packets of mustard (that I picked up from Wendy’s) and sucked them down.

Yup. I drank mustard.

Whether it was psychosomatic or not, every time I did it the twinge of cramps disappeared.

It was crazy.

Apparently, there is some science to support what’s going on here. In fact, this is the article that lead me to try the mustard solution.

Will it work for you?

I don’t know. Like I said, I’m not a doctor or scientists. But, it seems to have worked for me. SaltStick and mustard packets are now standard gear in my GORUCK packing list.

Do you have any tricks?

What works for you? Share in the comment section below.

5 Replies to Dealing with Muscle Cramps During GORUCK

  1. Pickle juice is supposed to work wonders too. But just for ease of use I think I’ll stick with saltstick. But the mustard is a protip that I will remember. You never know when you’ll start to cramp on an AR or long ruck and mustard packs are free at most convenience stores.

  2. Chiming in with further praise for the pickle shots linked above.

    I used the salt stick chewables for my blistering hot Star Course in Kansas City last weekend and the were great. They taste good as well. I feel like chewables get absorbed quicker than the capsules I used to use for cycling.

  3. There doesn’t seem to be conclusive scientific support for the idea, but I have heard that taking an Epsom Salt Bath is supposed to soak in magnesium through your skin. This might be a good alternative, if it works, because taking a supplement drink, like Natural Vitality, can be disruptive to your digestion (think Milk of Magnesia). I generally mix 1/2 tsp. each of Himalayan Salt (sodium), cream of tartar (potassium), Natural Vitality Naturally Calm (magnesium), and the juice of one lime, into 2 L water for my own electrolyte drink. I also take a ZMA capsules before bed. That prevents cramps nearly all the time, unless it is really hot outside.

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