I had a question posted to me a few days ago from a fellow swimmer in Massachusetts. He was wondering why he always got lower leg cramping during swim workouts, especially during kick sets with fins. Then, over the last day or so at Master's Swim practice, I have heard a few other swimmers talking about cramps as well. I gave Jeff some advice and hopefully it will be useful to you as well.
You have a very common problem- lower legs cramping while swimming, especially using fins. Good news: you are normal :) Let me tell you what you can do to help this problem get better. Your ankles are probably not as flexible as they can be. So, you need to take some time to stretch your ankles using an elastic band, pulling back on your toes, actively extending and flexing the ankles. You can also sit on your legs where your ankles are directly under your tush and lean backward- if that is not too much. You might need to work up to that. Essentially, your calves are what are cramping because during your kick, your feet are plantar flexed the entire time- it is essentially like you are wearing high heels throughout the entire workout. If your ankles lack flexibility, you will run into problems holding this position for any extended period of time- for you, at the 40-60 minute mark. It has nothing to do with what you are eating/drinking- even though drinking enough water is very important.
I would work on your flexibility of your ankles and also do some calf raises at the pool prior to your workout. You can do your raises at the edge of the pool or in the gutter if you are able to hang onto a starting block and hold on safely. Try this and let me know if you notice a difference.
Have a great day! Enjoy your workouts.
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