What Causes Side Stitches and How to Prevent Them

Understand the causes of side stitches and learn how to avoid them

Do you ever feel a sharp pain in the middle of your abdomen during a run or workout? You probably have a side stitch. It is not exactly known what causes side stitches. According to some researchers, the continuous flow of blood to the muscles and diaphragm can cause it. Side stitches could also be caused by excessive movement of the torso that leads to irritation in the abdominal lining. Beginner runners are more prone to getting side stitches as their bodies become more acclimated to running. Below are some ways to prevent side stitches and tips on what to do if you get one.

What to do if you get a side stitch while running

Every runner has experienced this. You’re in the middle of a run, feeling good, in a rhythm. And then you get a side stitch. There are times where it’s a minor one and slowing your pace and breathing deeply makes it go away. However, if it persists then you should address it with the steps below before it becomes more painful.

  • Stop running, but keep walking
  • Inhale and exhale slowly
  • Raise your arms above your head and stretch the affected side
  • Hydrate
  • Follow this cool-down routine

Cycling can help improve your performance and endurance as a runner.

Advice to prevent side stitches

1. Strengthen your body

Over-activation of the respiratory system leads to the tiring out of muscles if they are not in shape. Adding yoga or pilates to your regimen can help strengthen your core. Cycling is great for strengthening your lower body and reducing the pounding your legs take while running on the road.

2. Stretch before you run

Loosen your muscles and allow your body to warm up before you take off. Taking 10-15 minutes to stretch before you run will get your muscles ready and increase blood flow. Try the three lower-body stretches below.

  • Quadriceps – stand upright and hold your heel to your back with the knee downwards
  • Hamstrings – stretch one leg sideways and tuck the opposite foot into your inner thigh, then bend forward and hold the foot of the stretched leg
  • Calves – put your knee forward at a 90-degree angle while keeping your left leg straight and behind you

Stretching and hydrating can help prevent side stitches.

3. Hydrate

Experts recommend drinking 16 ounces at least 90 minutes before a run. If you are hydrating 30 minutes prior to running, drink 4 ounces. Hydrate with electrolyte-based drinks and water. Avoid sugary sports drinks if you can. The more you keep your body hydrated, the lesser your chances of cramping.

Side stitches happen. They’ll pop up if you’re running more miles or trying to increase your speed. Your goal should be to prevent them from occurring so you can complete your entire run or workout. Should one pop up, follow our advice so you can take care of it immediately.

Boost Your Hydration with these 4 Easy-to-Make Recipes

Hydration: 5 Things You Should Know and How They’ll Help

You know about hydration, now learn about how it helps your body

Nuun is the Official Hydration partner of the Ascension Seton Austin Marathon. They know a thing or two about hydrating athletes. The experts at Nuun are constantly gathering information about how athletes can better fuel their bodies. This blog post was written by the Nuun experts to educate athletes and provide them with the information needed to be successful during training and racing.

Hydration is energy (for your muscles)

Most people think that the purpose of hydration is to prevent dehydration and replenish electrolyte stores that may be lost via sweat. Although both of those are true (recent studies have shown that electrolytes may play greater roles in fluids absorption than sweat replenishment), the fundamental goal of hydration is to deliver oxygen to working muscles. Try to think about hydration or the fluid you are consuming as a way of helping your muscles breathe, which in turn gives them the energy they need to perform.

Editor’s note: proper hydration, along with these 6 tips from this Austin Marathon blog will help you run your best!

Water does not hydrate you

Yes, you read that correctly! While water does fundamentally provide your body with fluid, it does not truly hydrate you. Water needs to be in a specific concentration (composing of carbohydrates and electrolytes) to exit the stomach and move into circulation where it can be used by the body. Our water needs to contain sodium to ensure proper fluid absorption. To make matters even more complicated, your “water” should contain different amounts of carbohydrates and electrolytes before/during/after your workout.

Mitigate gastric distress during exercise

To put it simply, when you are exercising, your body (stomach) is under stress. There are ways you can eat and drink to mitigate that stress or encourage it. When it comes to hydration, if the ratio of carbohydrates to fluid is too high or the electrolyte profile is too low, the delivery of fluid slows down. It sits in the stomach. That’s what causes sloshing and GI issues during racing. 

Help you fuel better

This builds on the previous point. With proper hydration, you can help eliminate the GI issues that can come with it. This allows for faster and more efficient fueling. This is achieved by not overloading your system and using multiple pathways to absorb fluids and carbohydrates.

Aids in recovery

One area that is critical to the recovery process is rehydrating. Rehydrating not only replenishes fluids lost during exercise, but it also aids in replenishing the electrolytes that were also lost. Keep in mind: drinking too much too fast can degrade the potential gains of the workout. Here’s why: over time your body has developed a strong immune system that helps repair itself when it is under the stresses of exercise. Therefore, naturally, your body begins repairing itself, slowly rehydrating, and continuing to hydrate throughout the day.

Editor’s note: recover faster when you follow this long training run recovery timeline from the Austin Marathon!

Nuun Hydration is our Official Hydration partner. Head over to to stock up on your hydration supply and train with what will be on course. Save 25% with the code below!

7 Tips to Help You Run Your Best

These 7 tips will help you run your best and get the most out of training

Run your best when you follow these 7 tips! There are some things that are out of our control, like the weather. But when you execute the things you can control, you truly run your best. These tips are as easy as relaxing while you run and as technical as checking your cadence. Keep these tips in mind when you’re training for the Ascension Seton Austin Marathon.

Runner runs relaxed during the Austin Half Marathon, one of our tips to run your best!

Stay relaxed and keep your body loose during your run.


Sounds simple, but we can unknowingly put a strain on our body in an effort to produce mileage or a certain pace. Really focus on relaxing your body. Unclench your fists and loosen your shoulders and jaw. You can even begin your run or workout at a slightly slower than normal pace to really dial in your breathing. Slowly increasing your heart rate at the beginning will help with relaxation.

Take time off

Listen to your body, whether you suspect an injury or just don’t feel good. The last thing you want is to have something minor become a major issue. If you have to take more than a day or two off, visit a specialist and get checked out. Ascension Seton’s Dr. Martha Pyron specializes in sports performance. If there’s something wrong she’ll diagnose it and help you build a plan to get back to running. 

Get more sleep

Feeling a little sluggish since you’ve increased your mileage? Add one extra minute of sleep per night for every mile you run that week. If you run 30 miles per week, add 30 minutes of sleep. Your body repairs itself when you sleep. Make sure you give your body enough time to do what it needs when you begin asking more of it.

Runners hydrate with nuun at the Austin Marathon expo. Proper hydration is one of our tips to run your best.

People try different nuun hydration flavors at the 2019 Austin Marathon expo.


This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s extremely vital. At a minimum, you should drink 30-50 ounces every day. The more active the are, the more you should increase that amount. Make sure you have a good balance of water and an electrolyte-infused fluid, like nuun hydration.

Lift weights

Don’t run every day, mix it up. Cross-training is important to prevent overuse injuries. You work your muscles differently and build strength when you lift weights. When lifting weights, focus on a lighter weight with more reps. If you can’t make it to the gym, build your own workout that includes push ups, sit ups, squats, and lunges. Not a fan of lifting weights? Cross-train with these five non-running activities.

Check your cadence

The average runner’s cadence should be 150 steps per minute. You don’t have to count this in your head! Every runner is different, especially if you’re just starting out of have been running all your life. Under Armour makes knowing your cadence seamless. Their bluetooth connected shoes, like the UA HOVR Velociti 2, sends the information from your run directly to their MapMyFitness app. The app even provides personalized coaching tips! Tracking your cadence, mileage, pace, and other running-related data will help you see improvement.

Focus on your stride

This coincides with the first tip to relax. Your stride improves when you relax. Don’t overstride or run on your tippy toes. You want your stride to be smooth and comfortable. This better optimizes the energy your body uses and helps avoid injury.

You will ask more of your body as you increase your mileage. It’s important that you take care of your body. Incorporate these tips so that you can run your best. Do you have a tip that helps you run your best? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.