As if menstrual cramps aren't enough, side stickers or side stitches are another painful spasm women have to deal with more so than men. Picture this: You're running along your regular route when a sudden a stabbing pain in your side breaks your concentration. You ignore the spasm and keep running, but it won't subside and forces you to stop. This cramping happens when there's excessive strain on your diaphragm. There are various ways to avoid it, but it might take some trials and tribulations to find out what works for you.
Breathe deeply from your diaphragm while running. Avoid breathing shallowly, because this doesn't allow your diaphragm to lower and relax. Breathe in deeply through your nose for three or four steps and breathe out through your mouth during the next three to four steps. As your intensity increases, inhale and exhale on every second or third step.
Eat a small, easily-digestible snack and drink up to 12 ounces of liquid at least half an hour before running. A granola bar or half a sandwich with water or a sports drink are good options. Avoid eating large meals and fatty, spicy foods or drinking carbonated, sugar-laden drinks before running, because these might trigger side stitches.
Pace yourself, because taking up more than you can chew can result in side stickers. Warm up at a low-intensity pace for 10 minutes and gradually increase the intensity. Avoid showing off and running faster or farther than you're used to.
Incorporate short intervals into your runs during which you speed up your pace. This strengthens your diaphragm and abdominal muscles and also builds your cardiovascular fitness and endurance. The better your physical condition is, the less likely you are to experience side stitches.
- If you're running and feel a side stitch coming on, slow your pace, because this might make the discomfort go away. Alternatively, take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds and forcefully breathe out. If all else fails, stop running until the cramp subsides.
- Core Performance: Everything You Need to Know About Side Stitches
- Introduction to Sports Medicine & Athletic Training; Robert C. France
- Runner Academy: Preventing and Treating Side Stitches
- FitSugar: How to Breathe When Running
- Muscle & Fitness: Don't Let Side Stitches Slow You Down
- Columbia University: Columbia Health: Go Ask Alice!
- Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images