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Prevent Running Side Stitches

Diaphragm Spasms

Side stitches are basically muscle spasm of the diaphragm.

Our diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. The diaphragm helps in breathing.

  • When we inhale, the diaphragm moves down
  • When we exhale, the diaphragm moves up.

When the diaphragm is overworked and tired, its spasms like any other muscle. Breathing deeply and exhaling on the left footfall both help to relieve the strain on the diaphragm, which prevents side-stitches, which is why: individuals who enjoy jogging and running can prevent the ill-famed side-stitches with just two simple adjustments to the way they breathe when they run:

  • exhale on their left footfall and
  • breathe deeply while running

Breathing Rhythm

Most joggers and runners breathing are in-sync with their breathing, usually they begin AND end a respiratory cycle on the same foot during running, ie

  • breathing ratio of 4:1 while jogging and
  • 2:1 while running very fast

As the runner's breathing synchronizes with their stride, what happens is that exhalation then consistently occurs on the same leg - larger abdominal organs such as the liver is situation on the right side of our body, just under the diaphragm.

Exhaling moves the diaphragm up whilst the right footfall causes the liver to move downwards, and this "pulls" at the diaphragm via connected ligaments...it is this additional pull and strain that causes the diaphragm to spasm, or more known as side-stitch to happen.

By exhaling on the left footfall, it decreases this pull and strain.

Deep Belly Breathing

The other adjustment is to breathe deeper, which is also known as belly breathing as one runs.

This will allow the diaphragm to fully lower down and will decrease stresses on it.

hydrate, hydrate

Dehydration is one of the most common causes of fatigue (and muscle cramping/spasm) and should be avoided but that being said...we don't recommend runners or joggers to eat within one (1) hour of running and only eat lightly within three hours of running.

Do drink lots of clear fluids (water's great).