Whether new to running or an experienced marathoner, getting a stitch at an important moment in a race can be both painful and frustrating, causing irritation and slowing you down.
Stitches are the result of contractions or spasms of the diaphragm, the result of tugging and pulling of muscles when we move up and down. Changes in our physiology including a demand for more oxygen also cause us to breathe harder and less deeply, and gulp air.
Although it feels like stitches come out of nowhere, you can reduce your chances of being struck with one by following these 5 simple tips.
How to avoid your next stitch:
Tip 1: Strengthen your core
Strengthening your core allows you to be more solid when hitting the ground which helps make running easier. You can strengthen your core with exercises like planks, push-ups and mountain climbers.
Tip 2: Hydrate yourself before running
Drink a small amount of liquid (1-2 cups is ideal), 1-2 hours before you run. Ensuring you drink it well in advance gives your kidneys time to process the liquid and limiting your intake makes sure that your stomach is not full, which can make running uncomfortable.
Tip 3: Steady your breathing
Deep breathing can help prevent stitches. Practicing breathing deeply through your belly and diaphragm, inhaling for two steps and exhaling for three. This form of breathing allows your next breathe to start on the opposite foot of the previous ones, helping the muscles in your diaphragm to more effectively more air around your lungs. Avoiding shallow breathing and lifting shoulders when you run will also help.
Tip 4: Warm up
Warm ups are essential for good exercise. Try a short 2-3 minute walk with dynamic movement exercises like high knees, walking lunges, hip circles, and arm swings. Warming up this way also reduces your risk of getting running injuries.
Tip 5: Correct your posture and running form
Sometimes experienced runners will pick up bad habits like hunching over that make their muscles work harder. Keeping your posture in mind and paying attention to your form will help this. Keep your shoulders down, your head up, and your back straight with only a slight bend forward.
Still getting a stitch?
There are a few things you can do while getting a stitch.
Change your breathing. Two quick but deep breaths in will push your diaphragm down.
Holding your breath for 3 seconds and exhaling through closed/pursed lips.
Raising your arm, on the same side you have the stitch, then placing your hand behind your head. This will help stretch out your diaphragm.
Bend over, touch your toes and hold for 5 seconds
Massage the area around your stitch with your fingers to stimulate blood flow to the area and reduce pain
For more tips on improving your running posture read our running technique blog here.
If you would like to have your running style assessed, come in and have a biomechanical assessment done by one of our team on the treadmill we can give you specific advice tailored to you.
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