Sometimes it could be as simple as finding better shoes. Another option you could suggest to your client is to start incorporating surfaces such as sand for his training as well. Sand can help with the strengthening of all those stabilizing muscles and ligaments supporting the feet, ankles and calf muscles. He could start running barefooted or get some Vibram Five Fingers shoes, so he could take advantage of the sand surface. It’s a great way to increase the stamina, strength and flexibility of his lower body that could also help with the cramping (either prolonging or eliminating the clamping all together).
Also lower body foam rolling should be part of his recovering (if he is not doing it already). It’s difficult to give you any other suggestions without knowing and evaluating your client. Maybe someone else can give you a better solution/suggestion to your question. I hope this helps.
Harris gave some great suggestions. I would also suggest (if he is not doing so already) consuming some calories during the run. That 15-18 mile wall is very common in marathoners and is often caused because your body runs low on carbohydrates (your body’s preferred energy source during exercise) to break down and use for fuel. I recommend consuming something like a GU Energy Gel during the runs. They are designed to replenish the nutrients your body runs low on, including carbohydrates, during long bouts of exercise like marathons. He should practice using them in workouts before trying it in a race.
I hope this helps,
A contributing cause for leg muscles to cramp while exercising/running is often dehydration. Have your client read the following and incorporate a better hydration process, including electrolytes, to his running program. Hope this helps – Good luck! http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/how-to-stop-runners-cramp…
I agree with the previous answers regarding nutrition, hydration and foam rolling and would like to add that I had a client who tried everything and still got leg cramps on those long miles. He started wearing full length compression running tights and no more cramps! Compression socks would probably work just as well for your client if he is only getting the cramps in his lower legs. It is worth a try! He might want to try taking more salt during the long runs too. I find that for half marathon distance I am fine with regular electrolyte replacement drinks but once I get up into those longer marathon distances during training (and races) I need more salt than is in any of those drinks. I take those little sachets of salt with me and pour half into my sports drink at about mile 12 and then the other half at about 18-20. Some people I know just eat the salt right out of the packet and that works too for those who can stomach it!
There are some good suggestions here. But, the first thing I would do to rule out a likely possibility that his calves might be compensating for poor movement elsewhere in the body, is a postural and structural exam.
Recently, one of the sports med. editors of a national running magazine published that she had similar cramping problems with her hamstrings for many years. She had seen many doctors, PTs, coaches, etc… and no one could explain why. Then, during a proper structural movement evaluation, it was discovered that her glutes weren’t firing properly, causing her low back and hamstrings to compensate for hip extension by doing all the work. Her hamstrings would fatigue and become over worked and then cramp.
One example, is that your client may not be getting full hip flexion and extension while running, causing them to compensate with a more powerful plantar flexion to create forward movement (ie bouncing off the calves).
The first thing we do with every client at our facility here in Tumwater Washington, is postural and structural evaluation to determine what weaknesses or possible injuries may occur during future training or even daily activity and begin programs by addressing these.
If your client is properly hydrating and nourishing themselves, this is the first step I would take.