My (non)friend Charley Horse

Friday evening I was napping on the couch (I’m old – I fall asleep watching TV) when I was awakened by one of the worst charley horses I have ever experienced. This was unusual to start with – I don’t get muscle cramps often, but when I do it’s usually when I’m fast asleep in my bed. It was also unusual in that I hadn’t exercised on Friday (I work all day and consider it a “rest” day), and I drink plenty of water. And then, to make matters worse, while I was massaging the calf muscle, my OTHER leg started spasming at the ankle. Talk about pain! I was sharing the couch with 3 of our 4 dogs at the time so didn’t have enough room to roll around. I dropped to the floor, and writhed in pain. It was so bad I almost passed out. I have a pretty high pain threshold (having experienced multiple shoulder dislocations, hip bursitis, and various muscle strains and pulls) but this was extreme. My sister was nice enough to get an ice pack for me, which helped with the residual pain.

I don’t ever want another muscle spasm like this again, so I did some research into muscle spasms – their causes, cures and prevention.

Muscle spasms can be caused by exercising while dehydrated, or deficiency in certain minerals like calcium and potassium (  It can also be caused by overuse of muscles, exposure to cold temperatures, standing on a hard surface for a long period of time, having the legs in an awkward position, deficiency in magnesium, certain medical conditions such as having blood flow problems, or taking certain medications such as statins (

Not much help there. I don’t think I was dehydrated, or deficient in minerals, but you never know. All the sources I checked agreed that treatment is heat, ice, over-the-counter pain reliever, and drink plenty of water. And prevention is, again, drink plenty of water, don’t over-exercise, and stretch (but not too much).

Why Exercise?

Tango jumping

The Mayo Clinic will tell you all about the clinical benefits of exercise:
No. 1: Exercise controls weight – no secret there. The basic rule of weight loss is that if you use more calories than you take in, you’ll lose weight. Exercise boosts calorie usage. The harder you exercise, the more calories you burn. I like to eat, so I exercise!
No. 2: Exercise combats certain health conditions and diseases – Exercise can help lower your blood pressure and boosts good cholesterol (HDL). Blood flows more smoothly, decreasing the risk of heart disease. And regular physical activity can help prevent or manage many health concerns, like stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, certain cancers, arthritis and can help prevent falls, which is a great concern to those of us over a certain age. (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2/5/14)
No. 3: Exercise boosts your mood – After a hard workout, I just feel better. I’m nicer to my family and coworkers, and I feel better knowing that I did something good for my body.
No. 4: Exercise boosts energy – Exercise increases endurance and muscle strength. So walking up a flight of stairs or vacuuming the den won’t make you winded.
No. 5: Exercise promotes better sleep – Regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. But, make sure you get your workout in well before bedtime, otherwise you’ll be too energized to fall asleep.
No. 6: Exercise can be fun – Any continuing exercise is good for you. Just make sure that you enjoy your workout, otherwise you won’t stick with the program.

But I exercise because it helps me do what I want to. I’m able to wake up in the morning and run with my dogs, practice agility and obedience with them. When I exercise there’s less pain. And that’s a good thing!


Fran's frozen water bottle
Fran’s frozen water bottle

Forget the old saw that says you need 64 ounces of water a day! But, you still need to drink plenty of water or other liquids. It keeps your head clear, keeps things moving, and helps to fill you up. Water also keeps your skin healthy, along with everything inside. Drink when you’re thirsty. More when it’s hot out or you’re doing more.

If your water doesn’t taste good, add some lemon juice. Or, add another flavored juice to your water. Make sure that it’s not sugared, though, because then you’ll undo much of the good that the water does.

And use a bottle that you can wash and re-use. Save the environment while you’re saving yourself! I like to freeze about a third of the volume of the bottle the day before. That ice will keep my water cold most of the next day. If I’m adding lemon juice, I’ll squeeze a half of a lemon and add it to the water that I’m freezing. The next day my water will be tangy and delicious!

I have a huge purple BPA-free bottle that takes up way too much space in the freezer, but I love it. I have a BUiLT-NY cover for it so the condensation doesn’t get all over everything.