Here’s a tip I discovered somewhat accidentally when trying to cure a recurring case of side stitches (or stomach cramps, side cramps, whatever you want to call them). It’s a two step process:
Step 1- On a normal run when you don’t get them, take note of your breathing pattern. Track how many steps you inhale vs how many steps you exhale. A common pattern is 2×2, meaning you inhale for 2 steps, and exhale for 2 steps. My pattern is 3×1. I found that I’m most comfortable inhaling for 3 steps, and exhaling hard for one. Your rate can change depending on your speed, but find out what your comfortable breathing pattern is and stick to it!
Step 2- If you feel a stitch coming on, adjust your breathing pattern to do the majority of your exhaling on your foot on the opposite side of the stitch. Not sure why this works, but it does. You might feel constantly on the brink of getting one, but sticking to your comfortable breathing pattern and exhaling on the correct step should stop it from becoming a full on stitch.
That should hopefully be enough to help you fend off a side stitch, but if you can’t seem to get rid of it you may need to take an extended break from the run you’re on, or even cut it short. Running through that pain is a grueling experience and stumbling along in agony is not going to make you a better runner.
I have a theory that getting a bad case of side stitches one day leaves you more susceptible to getting them again the next day, which is all the more reason why if you feel it coming on, stopping and choosing to live to run another day might be wise.
So there you have it, my two steps to preventing side stitches. If you have any tips drop me a comment and I’ll test them out next time the need arises (which hopefully won’t be for a long, long time).