The dreaded running cramp. It’s probably already happened to you, and if not, consider yourself lucky. Cramps, or side stitches, are maybe not the worst thing that can happen to you as a runner, but they can be pretty bad. The big question is how do I prevent or stop running cramps?
- Don’t eat or drink too soon before running. For most people, this means no more than 1-2 hours before heading out, but see what works for you.
- If you take hydration with you on the run, bring one bottle of plain water and one with electrolytes. Sometimes cramping can occur because of an electrolyte imbalance in your body.
- Take small sips vs. big gulps when you are out running.
- Try to keep your breathing even. Beginners often get nervous or run too fast and breathe irregularly.
- Stay hydrated throughout the day, instead of chugging water before you run.
- Warm-up properly. Get your whole body ready to run!
But even the most careful (or experienced runner) can still get a side stitch. If that does happen, the first thing you should do is check your breathing. Most of the time, focusing on and regulating your breathing can ease the cramp.
Walk for a minute and put your hands on your stomach. If your stomach isn’t moving in and out with your breath, your breathing is too shallow. Focus on deep breaths (also called lower lung breathing). It can also help to press on the side that hurts when you breathe in and release when you breathe out.
Another strategy that can help is to breathe in for two steps and out for one, always on the same side. For example, breathing in for two steps as you land on your right foot, exhaling as you step with your left foot.
If you get a side stitch, walk as long as you need to regulate your breathing and ease the pain. Then continue your workout while being mindful of your breathing.
If all else fails, keep a running log. After documenting for awhile, look for patterns. Do you cramp after eating certain foods for lunch? In certain weather? Certain distances/workouts?