Side Stitch Fix

I know Mondays are usually dedicated to training check-ins, but I have been trying to resolve my side stitch issue and wanted to share some of the things that I have been trying. I’ll try to get my training update up on Wednesday. I don’t usually get side stitches during training runs, so it has been a bit hard to nail down possible fixes. The side stitch that I got during the Charlevoix race left me with abdominal pain for the next few days and any moderate efforts in the next two weeks gave me a side stitch. So hooray for pain, I guess.

Poses I’d like to avoid during my next race!

I had two long runs where I got side stitches. Since I was less focused on my time during these runs I ran until the side stitch became unbearable and then tried to figure out the best combination of walking and running that would let me transition back to full on running. I found that alternating 1 minute of walking with 1 minute of running for a couple rotations while I focused on keeping my breathing steady seemed to work. Once I could make it through a minute of running without any issues I reduced the walking breaks to 30 seconds and started extending the running portion to whatever time felt comfortable. One thing that I learned is that if I am fighting a side stitch downhill running will make it worse. I think it is the added force from landing.

I also had a close call with a side stitch during a 5 mile tempo run. I started to notice the pain creeping in about 3.5 miles into the tempo. I really, really wanted to make it through all 5 miles without stopping so instead of letting the pain get worse, I immediately started working on my breathing exercises.

I’ve noticed that when running my breathing tends to be a bit shallow. I don’t think I am utilizing my diaphragm correctly. So I try to focus on taking a slow, steady breath in while expanding my diaphragm, then I sort of forcefully exhale. This was a tip suggested to me by Dolly. I also have been timing my breathing so that I am landing on my left foot when I begin to inhale/exhale. The combination of these two things seems to do a pretty good job at keeping the stitches at bay. During my tempo run I only saw my pace slip a tiny bit during mile 4 and I was even able to pick up the pace for the remaining mile (mile splits for that run were 7:49, 7:43, 7:45, 7:54, 7:13!!!).

Unfortunately it takes a lot of concentration since I seem to naturally want to inhale/exhale with my right foot striking the ground. I do worry that at mile 12 of a half marathon I won’t have the capacity to really focus that closely on synchronizing breathing and left foot landing. I have been trying to practice these two breathing exercises during most of my runs so hopefully by the time my next race gets here it will be a little more intuitive. 

In a race I would like to think that I will utilize the second method described here for as long as I can. My goal of course would be to run as much as possible without needing to take walk breaks. But, I can’t guarantee that the breathing techniques would be able to fight off a stitch, so I guess it is good to have the run/walk intervals as a back up plan.

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2 thoughts on “Side Stitch Fix

  1. I've heard it's actually better to alternate which foot you inhale on with each breath. This has worked for me: I used the 3-2 technique (inhale 3 steps, exhale 2, so I'm always breathing in and out on the opposite foot). It takes some practice because it does not feel natural at first, but as I do it more, I've often found myself doing it automatically during harder runs. I rarely get side stitches…maybe this is why? Most of mine are usually caused by trying to run too fast too soon, which throws my breathing out of whack. Good luck!

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