How To Avoid A Side Stitch

Getting a side stitch in the  middle of a run is a pain (pun intended). I hate when I am in the groove and get a side cramp, and my XC runners have experienced it as well. Luckily, I have a little trick to get rid of them quickly (which may already be well known but whatever).

A side stitch can be caused by numerous things, such as shallow breathing, a spasm of the diaphragm, and eating too big of a meal or drinking too much before a run. 

So how can you prevent it or treat it once it happens?

How To Avoid A Side Stich While Running...try these 4 tips!

Eat/Drink Less Before a Run

Typically, you should eat your last meal about 2 hours before a run, and stop drinking coffee or water 30-60 minutes before a run. I still sometimes eat a small snack right before a workout (like half a banana or granola bar), but definitely avoid a large meal or snack, and obviously don’t chug a bottle of water before a workout. BUT at the same time, stay hydrated. A few of my runners got killer side cramps earlier this season and when I asked them if they drank water all day they said “no because I didn’t want to get a cramp.” What?? Staying hydrated throughout the day will HELP you to avoid getting a side stitch.

Slow Down

If you need to stop and walk, do it. No shame in that. Take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Resume running once you feel the cramp has gone away.

Focus On Your Breathing

Speaking of breathing, if you regularly get side cramps, try a different method of breathing. It will be uncomfortable and feel weird at first, but might help you in avoiding cramps. I am a mouth breather and my mom is a nose breather – everyone has their ways. Many articles I’ve read on breathing while running have suggested breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. I try to do this when running easy, and during a workout I will remind myself to take a deep breath through my nose occasionally to regulate my breathing and heart rate.

Squeeze it

This is my favorite “trick.” When I get a side stitch, I will squeeze where it hurts, and also push in and up a little bit, while ALSO bending over as I do it, continuing to run, and forcefully exhaling out everytime my left foot strikes.

lol WUT?

Yeah I know, that was confusing. Here are the steps:

  1. As you continue running (slow down a bit), squeeze your cramp AND push up.
  2. Bend over as you are running (looks a little weird but F it, you want to get rid of that cramp) AND keep squeezing
  3. Breathe deeply through your nose, and when your left foot strikes (as you’re continuing to run), forcefully exhale through your mouth. As in, get rid of all the air.
  4. Repeat a few more times, and then your cramp should go away.

I forget where I initially read this sequence, but it really does help. I’m sure people look at me and wonder what I’m doing, but usually my cramps go away within seconds, and my XC runners can attest to that as well.

Do you get side cramps regularly? If so, what do you do?

If not, what is one of your “runner pains?”


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  1. Great tips! I always breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth. If I feel a side stitch coming, I also try to make sure I’m switching up which leg I land on each time I exhale. That seems to really help!
    Nicole @ Fitful Focus recently posted…How To Master The Bike CommuteMy Profile

  2. Great tips! side stitches can be debilitating. I breathe through my nose and sometimes try to breathe through my mouth through tougher efforts but it is hard to change it up. I don’t get a lot of side stitches but got a remarkable one during my half on Saturday but it was higher up near my ribs. My old coach always said to exhale with the foot strike on the opposite side (so stitch on right exhale with left stride).
    Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat recently posted…Narrows Half Marathon RecapMy Profile

  3. I (knock on wood) don’t get side stitches. Every now and then I get a sharp pain in my right calf muscle but I run through it. I know a lot of people who get side stitches and I will definitely share this

  4. I hate getting a side stitch! I’ll try these tips next time.
    Tricia@MissSippipiddlin recently posted…Do you play the Comparison Game?My Profile

  5. Thankfully I do not get side-stitches very often. When I have experienced them it tends to be on very long race efforts on hot days (think Olympic distance or Half Ironman Tris). My stomach rebels in general and stops absorbing the fluid I’m drinking and I get sloshy belly and sometimes side stitch. I have a feeling my specific case may be due to electrolyte imbalance when I’m sweating copious quantities. Unfortunately I haven’t found a solution. I’ve heard that pickle juice or fluids like that can have an impact, both from electrolytes but also stimulating part of your nervous system (vagus nerve). Haven’t tried it though.
    Kelli recently posted…Woman Crush Wednesday – Tanya LoganMy Profile

  6. I’ve been getting side stitches fairly often these days and I think it’s one of two things–dehydration or that I’m running too fast and breathing bad. But once they start, it’s a painful slow down until I can chase them away! WTH?
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…The Joy StealerMy Profile

  7. Thanks for this, great tips. I get them sometimes usually when I start too fast or eat to close to running. I hate them for sure, I usually have to walk awhile afterwards to get back on track.
    Ivanna recently posted…Reduce Post Workout Soreness: ISOPURE AMINOSMy Profile

  8. ugh those are the worst!! I do have to stop and focus on my breathing when it happens and that usually takes care of it
    Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…The Husband Project-Month 2 UpdateMy Profile

  9. I get them a lot more during the summer since I am pounding the water. I can’t stand to be too hot so I have to cool down with heavy water intake.
    Daisy @ Fit Wanderlust Runner recently posted…Hoka Bondi 4 ReviewMy Profile

  10. I haven’t gotten a side stitch since I started running regularly many, many years ago. I try to focus on my breathing especially when the run begins so I can get comfortable.
    Mar @ Mar on the Run recently posted…Health Coaching at Georgetown, Part II: The PracticumMy Profile

  11. I hate side stitches!! I usually take deep breaths and slow down and it resolves. Thanks for great tips!
    Toni recently posted…Weekly Workout Wrap-Up, NYC Marathon Training, Week 10My Profile

  12. I used to get side cramps and still do occasionally. My fix is actually doing a wheel position (back bend). It’s typically a tight diapraghm for me and this cures it every time!
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…10 Tips for running an International MarathonMy Profile

  13. I haven’t gotten one in ages, but some of my runners did when I used to coach. Stretching sideways away from the side with stitch usually helps. That or exhaling hard when the foot on the stitch side hits the ground.
    MCM Mama Runs recently posted…I am a 261 Fearless Ambassador!My Profile

  14. Super helpful tips! I’m all about the breathing – as soon as I feel one come in I take some deep breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth and they go away pretty quickly!
    Ariana recently posted…The 5 Biggest Running Myths DispelledMy Profile

  15. I only got one notable side stitch in my running “career” and it was at mile 19 at the marathon where I ran my first BQ. In my case it was from not drinking enough. I drank and ran while pressing on the area and thankfully it was resolved.
    Marcia recently posted…How to Overcome the Comparison TrapMy Profile

  16. I don’t get side stitches often, but the squeezing method always works for me! Great tips!
    Janelle @ Run With No Regrets recently posted…10 Reasons to Love Running in the FallMy Profile

  17. Side stitches are THE worst, but good news to any runners out there….they tend to become less likely the more you run, so KEEP GOING :) Thanks for sharing this advice Patty, it is very helpful. I find the massaging usually helps me the most, will go one step further and squeeze next time :)
    Tina muir recently posted…Are You Too Slow To Be A Runner?My Profile

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