I hate it when I go out for a run and not 2 or 3 minutes in, I feel a side stitch coming on – ugggh. It makes me tense up more knowing my run is probably going to go terribly and it will hurt. Certainly an obstacle that keeps me from either completing a run.
Those little things can ruin it all, but I promise the more in shape you get the less chance you have of getting them. Basically your muscles are tightening up and causing the pain – like a leg cramp would but in your side instead.
When it happens the best thing you can do is relax. Breathe more deeply and easily, slow down your running, and relax all of your muscles. If you can, keep running but maybe slower, sometimes the muscles will release as you get really warmed up and the cramp will subside.
Watch what you eat and when you eat, it does have an effect on how you feel. I’ll never forget the time I ate fruit crepes with ice cream 1 hour before the hardest practice of the year – I ended up vomiting two intervals in and had 10 more to go.
Be smart about your food intake. Eat 2 to 3 hours (I’m on the longer end of 3 hours) before you run and if you really need something before running eat a banana or something light on the stomach. No protein bars, and stay away from the gels if you have been using those before. We’ve found with some of our athletes the gels and even gatorade would cause cramping during a workout or run if they used them before. Look at what you are doing before a run and switch it up to see if it helps.
Ok – that is one cause, and you say but I eat right! Typically most people experience cramps as they start a running program. In other words you are more out of shape than you thought. Your core muscles aren’t developed enough to hold you balanced as you run continually. In fact they are weaker than your legs and the cramping is those core muscles giving out on you. Actually, they are tightening up on you and pulling as they tighten giving you that cramping feeling. Best thing to do, keep running – if you want to continue the run. The more you stop, the more they come back. When you stop your muscles then tighten up. While you run they loosen up. As you run stretch them out by lifting your arms and leaning opposite to the side that is cramping.
I do want to say, no one, especially me, would blame you if you cut it short. Getting back into a program means you want to come back the next chance you get. Cut the run short and try and come back another time. Sometimes those cramps are so tough you really can’t keep going.
Overall, doing strengthening exercises for your core will help, but also running will help. In combination you will find you get those stitches less. (I am the worst at getting in core exercises but they are super good for your posture and strength).
The point is, keep going, don’t stop! Those side stitches will subside as you stay with a continuous running program. Don’t let them get you down and convince you not to go for a run because you know it will hurt. Know that going for a run is strengthening those muscles and helping you overcome those pains.
Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Start Small, Build Slow
Day 3: It Doesn’t Have To Be Boring
Day 4: Stitches
Day 5: Keep a Diary
Also, if you want more motivation, you might want to follow my Pin Board ‘Run’!