It was only a dream…

It is now less than a week before my wave of the London triathlon.  And in less than a week I will also be done with my wave of the London triathlon.  Every time I think of it my heart begins to pound a bit quicker, my adrenaline kicks in, and even though I know the start and know what to expect as this is my third London triathlon, that does not make it easier.  And clearly it is now impacting my sleep…The horn went off, I was in the Thames, and my triathlon had started.  I felt good.  Strong.  But somewhat different than expected.  My calf was tight, and I looked behind me and saw that someone had grabbed onto my leg.  I couldn’t shake the mystery swimmer off, so I swam my 750m, feeling strong, with AN Other in tow. And then I woke up.It was not a person gripping my calf.  It was another dreaded calf cramp, of the variety that have been disturbing my sleep off and on for the past few years.In 2005, after I had received my confirmed diagnosis of CMT, I was introduced to Vicki Edgson.  Vicki was one of the founders of the Food Doctor practice in the UK, and I worked with her to become more food aware and to learn more about how the body uses food and how food interacts with the body.  I had not seen Vicki since 2005, but knew that I was due a visit, and that with increasing my training I would need to focus once again on my diet, to make sure I was eating right for my body, in a way that would benefit both my training and CMT.  So in June, on the advice of @BrennanAnnie (a twitter friend) I started food logging to make sure I had a sufficient body of my habits for Vicki to analyse.It is hard to tell what exactly is causing my calf cramping.  The cramps tend to come with increased activity levels.  In 2007 I had a battery of tests run in advance of participating in my first London triathlon, and one of the interesting things was listening to the bio feedback of my nerve activity following exertion.  My nerves didn’t seem to “turn off” – after contracting a muscle (you can hear it as a high pitch noise) the relax phase didn’t turn to silence, but had a continuous background noise punctuated with occasional high pitched “spikes” of sound.  I have always wondered if perhaps this “nerve feedback” is the root cause of my muscle cramping.I know that nutrient imbalances can cause cramping too.  Most often written about is the sodium-potassium balance in cells.  But low magnesium can also lead to cramping in highly active people.  When I asked my doctors if they thought diet would cause cramping, they said possibly, and that also perhaps the nerve damage I had could be causing the cramping.  But I do not want to blame every malady I have on my CMT.  In my opinion that is far too easy an option.  Too many people start their days saying “oh I’m in pain today” following a long walk, blaming it on CMT, when it is actually muscles coming to life again, active, and waking up.  It is far too easy to say “it is my CMT” and to avoid doing things that can be unpleasant, using CMT as a convenient excuse…  Adding to muscle atrophy rather than adding to the strength that we need to stay strong, healthy and active.So I made an appointment with Vicki and brought my 5 weeks of food journals for her to review.  One of the first things she noticed was a potential lack of magnesium for my high activity level.  Prescription 1 – magnesium supplements.  She also noticed that I am probably not eating enough protein to help rebuild my muscles post exercise.  Prescription 2 – make sure I have protein with breakfast (such as an egg, or smoked salmon on toast, or even nut butter on toast such as peanut butter or cashew/almond butter).  And finally Vicki remarked that no matter what my ambitions are, that I must, first and foremost, take care of my body, as without it I could forget about any goals I might have.  All sensible advice.Following my appointment with Vicki I contacted my doctors and queried if there was any reason why I shouldn’t take magnesium supplements – would they interact with the research physiotherapy study I was participating in, or would there be any nerve-related side effect that would be better to skip.  With each step along my journey I make sure to keep my doctors informed.  It turns out there is no medical reason not to take magnesium supplements, so we will be doing a three week experiment to see if supplements help to reduce my 2 am calf cramps.  Apparently if the cramps are magnesium related, there will be a noticeable difference in my muscle tone after 10 days of the 3 week course.  I don’t expect a “miracle cure” from taking supplements.  I am not a person who willy-nilly accepts the advice of just anyone, and nor do I expect that the nerve damage attributable to my CMT can be “fixed”.  However, I do believe that eating right, cooking for oneself rather than relying on ready-meals, and in general paying attention to what I put into my mouth is a good thing.  Regardless of whether or not you are an athlete, an average joe, or someone working with the constraints of a medical condition, eating well and healthy is just good common sense. But one thing that make me ME is that I *am* willing to experiment – to try – to see what happens – particularly when it comes to my health and fitness.  So I am willing to see if increasing magnesium will help alleviate some of the horrid leg cramps I experience. I hope the magnesium helps… I do not want to pull someone around the swim course with me again, for real or in my dreams!

One response to “It was only a dream…”

  1. Thanks so much Khara. Definitely will put that on the list to try, end August (post 3 weeks of magnesium experiment).  And thanks for the well wishes on the weekend – am so ready to jump in The Thames!

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