Side cramps. Side stitch. Side ache. No matter what you call it, getting a cramp in your side while running is just plain annoying. It hurts, too, and can affect how you run.
What Causes Side Cramps when Running?
In an article on WebMD, Olympic runner and running expert Jeff Galloway says that side cramps when running happen due to shallow breathing, “not breathing deeply from the lower lung.” This would explain why I got a side ache during the first three miles of the Seattle Rock ‘N’ Roll half marathon the last two years in a row. There is so much excitement. I’m high-fiving spectators, cheering for bands and not paying attention to my running or breathing. Galloway says the side pain is a “little alarm” letting you know that you aren’t breathing right.
Exercise physiologist and spokesman for the American Council on Exercise Pete McCall says in the WebMD article that a side stitch can also be from “an imbalance of blood electrolytes (such as calcium, potassium and sodium) in your body.”
How to Get Rid of a Side Stitch
Practice breathing deep: “Put your hand on your stomach and breathe deeply. If you’re breathing from your lower lungs, your stomach should rise and fall.”
Don’t start too fast: This is a good rule to follow anyway. Running too fast out of the gates is a good way to get a side stitch. “It’s always better during the first 10 minutes to be more gentle,” Galloway says in the article. He also says that nervousness can cause runners to breathe faster and “revert to shallow breathing.”
Slow down, breathe deep: If you get cramping in your side during your run or race, slow down to a walk, says Galloway. “Do the lower lung breathing while walking, maybe [for 2-4] minutes.”
Eat or drink: If your side ache is from an imbalance of electrolytes, taking an energy gel and some electrolyte-infused fluids, such as Nuun. That worked for me both times.
Do you have any tips that have worked for you? Please share in the comments!