Monday, September 7, 2009

Achy Breaky Side

I woke up yesterday morning to go for a run, but instead of mapping a course beforehand, I decided I would just run and run and run until I felt like walking.

I began with my usual brisk-walk warmup. I walked a little longer this time because one of my calves got tight toward the end of my last run. I figured maybe I wasn’t warmed up enough last time.

Then I began my run. I headed toward the lake and could already sense that it would be a good day. My tunes were jammin’, the sun with shining, there was a slight breeze. Perfection.

When I got to the point where I stopped to walk during my last run, I powered right through. Like I said, I began running later in my route than previously. I figured I had run a little less than two miles at this point. Easy peasy! Keep running!

I did one more lap around the lake (1.6 miles) and was definitely tired. I felt like I COULD keep going, but did I want to? But Battlefield by Jordin Sparks just came on, and that’s a great running song!!!!

And then it happened. A side ache.

I slowed my pace and began breathing deeply from my belly. Is that a cure? For some reason I remembered hearing that somewhere, but please let me know if you know.

In this instance, it was not a cure. My tiny side ache turned into a fullblown stabbing pain that took my breath away. I stopped to walk immediately. I kept up with the belly breathing, and it helped to put my arms above my head. The pain didn’t last long, but that was the last of my running for the day.

So, I ask you, what causes a side ache? How can I avoid them?

I read that side aches can occur due to eating or drinking before a run … and not eating or drinking beforehand. Well that’s helpful! Do I eat or drink or not?! I did drink water before the run. Not so much that it would slosh around in my stomach, but some. Dehydration also causes muscle cramping.

I also read that in time, as I become stronger, a side ache will be less likely. After all, it is a cramp in my muscles, so I guess I need to work those abs!

I’ve never had a side ache before, at least not one that stopped me in my tracks. But, then again, I can’t recall EVER running 3.4 miles before. Yep, that’s right. 3.4 miles! I’d like to keep running these types of distances, but I need to figure out this side ache mystery.

Help me, runner readers!

1. What causes a side ache and how can I avoid it?
2. What should I do if another side ache happens?


  1. OMG, 3.4 miles Amanda, that is AWESOME!!!! Congratulations, that is so wonderful!

    I actually was just pulling up a website for Dori about a sideache and happen to have it right here from KK who talked a little about side aches. I'm sure there maybe a couple of different reasons but this could be one of them

  2. Hey Amanda i have found that running with the army the side ache thing is something that if you run through it, it will go away. It sucks for a little while and it hurts but it will go away and when it does it seems atleast for me that i have more energy. Its almost like a second wind. Something else it could be is water. How much are you drinking before you run? It could be a cramp. If you are drinking lots of water before you run that can also cause those side aches. If you drink lots more water through out the day and less before you run they might go away. Let me know if that works out for you.

  3. My very unscientific remedy to the side ache problem works for me every time, even though I'm sure many people have thought I was a complete lunatic.
    Cover your mouth and let out a long, silent scream. Let the air still escape, but no sound. Repeat as needed.
    I have heard before that the ache comes from an excess of air, which would make sense if the case, but I really have no clue. Hope it works for you.

  4. I've also heard if you strike harder on the side where the stitch is, then sometimes that will help.

    What I do is either push through it, or stop and completely crouch down to the ground and breathe really hard.

    Congrats on the distance!!

  5. Is the ache primarily on your right side? If so, it's probably the breathing/liver issue described in the link Jen provided. I used to get them quite frequently, and then I started exhaling on my left foot, and it stopped. Recently, however, I've been having side stitches on my left side, and nothing seems to help them! I haven't tried drinking water when it happens, though, so maybe that would help. Congratulations on your long run! I know how good those feel!

  6. If I remember... back when i was a runner in HS... WAY TOO MANY YEARS AGO. It has to do with unsteady breathing, not sure the mechanics of it all. But i could be remembering wrong too, it has been a decade. :) LOL. But coach would tell us to use our whole diaphram to breathe... lets see if i can remember... ummm... normally when you breathe in... you're chest and belly rise/go in... So breathe in... push your belly out while your chest expands.... when you exhale (which normally everything moves opposite of when you breathe in) let your lungs breahte out/move inward, but pull your belly in. Does that make sense, and yes, arms above your head helps. I remember walking it out doing his breathing technique. but if i was in a competition... I'd have to run through it while doing the breathing technique or lag behind and lose my spot in the race to the finish. Whatever the mechanics of it are... i just remember if I lost concentration on my breathing and it got unsteady or breathing too hard... I'd get side stitches. Good luck figuring out a cure. :)

  7. The best way to prevent side ache to choose your pace carefully and breathe accordingly using the technique. If the breathing technique is okay, you'll be fine. But make sure you breathe all out and in. (I'm not a native speaker so that's why the explanation is so fuzzy, my bad (: ) But if the ache happens the best thing you can do is lower your running pace and you breathe out the oxigen when your foot hits the ground (if for example you feel the ache on your right side, make sure that you breathe the oxygen out when your left foot hits the ground ... this is important because this way there's less pressure on the side where you feel the ache) Sometimes if you stop it may get worst first. :(

    I hope it helped a little. I used to be a runner now I'm on my way to be one again. Good luck for your next workout. Your posts are amazing by the way!!! (:

  8. From my experience and very bad memory, a side stitch can happen when you don't warm up properly, or when you are dehydrated/not taking in enough water.

    Make sure you are well hydrated and that you are pacing yourself and listening to your body. Also, the breathing exercises the people above me suggested are great.

    Push through it and keep jogging, or walk for a little bit. The ache will go away. Always sip at water, the whole time you are exercising. Even if you feel you aren't thirsty, because by the time you are it's already too late. Stop to stretch and breathe deeply, and then keep going right again.

  9. I get the worst cramp in my ribcage. Even if I eat nothing... I will try these tips people left you!

  10. I find that I get them if I eat something heavier before a run. I always try to run at least an hour after eating though. But if you had a heavy meal, that might be why.

    I actually got one last week when I ran after a big lunch and I grabbed the side the sideache was on and squeezed. Sort of like I was hanging on to the ache itself. And it went away! I don't know if that's any kind of cure, but it worked for some reason!

    And congrats on 3.4! Way to go!

  11. I just bumped into this one today on Runners World online and remembered your post:

    Oh No! Side Stitch
    Recovery Plan: Notice which foot is striking the ground when you inhale and exhale. Then switch the pattern. So if you were leading with your right foot, inhale when the left foot steps. If that doesn't help, stop running and reach both arms above your head. Bend at the waist, leaning to the side opposite the stitch.