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?
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.
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.
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.
Yeah I know, that was confusing. Here are the steps:
- As you continue running (slow down a bit), squeeze your cramp AND push up.
- Bend over as you are running (looks a little weird but F it, you want to get rid of that cramp) AND keep squeezing
- 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.
- 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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