So, 2 days ago I was swimming in the ocean with my kids for a while, I also did some freestyle swimming for exercise - about 250M. I swim a decent amount but that plus just swimming with my kids was more than usual.

On exiting the water I got these horrible cramps in both of my calves. The left one was bad but the right side was extreme and persisted for 2 mins or so. When it ended my calves were sore and felt really weak. Two day later and they are a little better but still very sore and I can't really stand on my toes without my right calf giving out.

I should note, I may have been a little dehydrated and the water (atlantic ocean on the coast of Maine) was cold by mid-to-late August standards.

I can still walk on it, though - to be honest it feels more like I gave it the workout of a lifetime as opposed to a muscle strain.

What is the mechanism of this pain - is it the same as an intense workout or is it something else that just feels that way. Subjectively, It feels the same except for the weakness.

I had my wife give me a calf massage last night - she said that it felt like there was a baseball under the skin of my right calf. Boy did that massage hurt.

  • I would have it evaluated. Especially if you have a "baseball" lump, it's possible that you have a persistent cramp that has knotted up the muscle (Google calf heart attack), a possible muscle tear from the cramp, any number of things from very minor to serious. Get someone who knows what they are doing to take a look and diagnose.
    – JohnP
    Aug 24, 2015 at 20:15

1 Answer 1


I think this might get closed as a duplicate of how to prevent calf cramps while swimming, but you directly asked this so I'll try to answer it for you:

What is the mechanism of this pain - is it the same as an intense workout or is it something else that just feels that way.

There are two competing theories (neither proven, empirically) on EAMC (exercise associated muscle cramps).

The first idea is a loss of sodium. This causes the muscles to eventually change shape internally, causing structural modifications that take a while to heal from.

The second idea is neuromuscular fatigue. Your neurons require a certain amount of various chemicals in order to send and receive electrical impulses. In fact, the limiting factor of strength tends to be intracellular calcium.

If you're feeling it two days later, especially if it seems to have gotten worse 24-48 hours after, you're most likely dealing with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.

In all cases, training helps (once you can walk without wincing). A large part of physical training is the actual efficiency of signal processing that your brain uses to activate muscles. Your body will adapt to the new stress, and two large components of that adaptation are neuromuscular and more basic skeletal muscle tissue growth.

  • Thanks interesting stuff feeling better today - stretched a lot last night played some hoop today - felt fine.
    – picus
    Aug 25, 2015 at 18:48

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