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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.

How to Properly Cool Down After a Run

Why you should properly cool down and effective ways to do it

Running and exercise are essential to your overall health. Runners are known for pushing themselves to extremes, from increasing mileage to running on different terrain. One thing all runners have in common: you have to take care of your body. Everyone is different and takes care of themselves the best ways they know how. This blog focuses on how to properly cool down after a run and provides some effective ways to do so.

Female runner smiles as she crosses the 2020 Austin Half Marathon finish line.After a good run or workout session, you’re covered in sweat and your heart is racing. When you properly cool down after a run your heart rate can get back to its normal state. Stopping suddenly after a run without cooling down can cause dizziness. It is equally important to cool down after a run as it is to warm up before a run. Pro tip: effectively warm-up before your run with these four stretches.

The benefits of a cool-down routine

A good run gets your heart and body working harder. It is important to gradually bring your heart rate to normal after any form of workout. A good cool-down routine allows the heart rate to normalize gradually.

With an increased heart rate, a good running session also affects breathing in the same way. A good cool-down routine also helps the breathing to return to its natural rhythm. It can also help you relax after a rigorous run.

Running or working out promotes the flow of blood throughout the body. After a good running session, stopping suddenly can cause blood pressure to drop rapidly. A proper cool-down routine allows it to fall gradually. 

Two runners jump for joy with their hands raised in the air as they cross the 2020 Austin Half Marathon finish line.

Effective ways to properly cool down

  • End with a brisk walk or a slow jog for 5-10 minutes
  • Hydrate
  • Foam roll (avoid these foam rolling mistakes)
  • Stretch for 10-15 minutes (important muscles to stretch below)
    • Groin, inner thigh, IT band
    • Calves
    • Quads and hamstrings
    • Backs and arms
    • Core

Remain relaxed and breathe slowly while you stretch. Don’t stretch to the point where it starts to hurt. You should not push yourself after a point where you begin to feel stiffness in the muscles.

A cold water bath for 5-10 minutes is another effective way to cool down after you’ve hydrated and stretched. Lying on the floor with your legs up against the wall is also a great way to cool down after a long run. This pose is also referred to as “Viparita Karani” in yoga.

Everyone cools down differently. By knowing how to properly cool down you start the recovery process as quickly as possible. If you want to further understand how temperature affects your running performance, check out this blog written by Ascension Seton Sports Performance’s Dr. Jakob Allen. It further highlights the need to properly cool down after a hot run.

How to Build Mental Toughness for Running

You can become a better runner when you build mental toughness

It’s easy to get caught up in the latest gear and gadgets during training. Runners can get caught up in the newest shoes, the latest GPS watch, or the latest update to your training app. But are these gadgets the answer to potential struggles? Maybe not. Most agree that a big part of success in any sport is due to mental factors. Building mental toughness is about setting up strategies for when we encounter an obstacle or feel uncomfortable. Don’t ignore the need to build mental toughness during your training.

Assume that thoughts, feelings, and performance are intertwined. With that, runners can begin the process of overcoming their runs rather than the feeling overcome by their runs. Mental training is an important part of an athlete’s overall development. Many runners do not identify this part of training and often find themselves struggling during their training or a race. One of the basic principles of success is to simplify the process of thinking. Pro tip: adjust your expectations according to the weather when you learn how temperature affects performance.

As many runners will confirm, you run as well as you think. With so many thoughts running through the brain, it can be difficult to reduce distractions and negatives. One of the reasons why runners ignore the mental aspect of running is that they are not familiar with the basics of sports psychology and mental training. In keeping with the “less is better” philosophy, mental training is better understood using the construction of the following three words: Think –> Feel–> Perform

Think

Before your next run, take a moment to identify your thoughts. Are you optimistic about your planned distance? Are you thinking about how good you will feel during and after the race? Maintaining positive thoughts before and during the run is the first step to controlling your performance. Uncomfortable and negative thoughts might start to creep in. Bring yourself back to your “why” and tell yourself positive “I am” statements. The statements below and these 11 other tips can help make running easier.

  • I am strong.
  • I am willing to push through and complete my goal.
  • I can do this effort longer.
  • I am doing this to better myself.  

Feel

Determine your emotional state as you warm up with these 4 stretches. Identify your thoughts. Are you excited about the run? Do you feel a personal challenge with the distance? Do you feel confident in your abilities? Are you anxious, nervous, or stressed about the mileage? Maintaining positive emotions before and during the run is the second step in gaining control over your performance.

Visualize other times in your life or training where you have achieved a goal you set for yourself. Harness this feeling and project it towards your current goal. Check your playlist if you are listening to music. Make sure your running playlist consists of music that’ll pump you up and energize you. If more relaxed music or a podcast helps, listen to that to calm your nerves. 

Perform

Practice daily. This does not mean you have to run every day, but you can put yourself in situations where you have to practice mental toughness. Increase the weights during your workout or add more reps. If you ride your bike, add more miles to your ride. 

Introduce yourself to situations that may happen on race day during your training. Get out of bed and start that workout in the cold weather. Next time it is raining, instead of skipping, go out and run in the rain. These 7 tips will make running in the rain more fun. Didn’t sleep well? Attempt your planned run. You can see how the lack of sleep affects your ability to keep positive thoughts and emotions. Pro tip: get a good night’s sleep and save some money during Austin Marathon weekend when you book these hotels!

Overcome the common struggle

Having positive thoughts and feelings right from the start will give you a chance to succeed. This may not result in PR, but you are in a much better position to have a pleasant experience with the right mindset. Your thoughts can affect your emotions, and your emotions can affect how you perform. Once you get into the race, a strong mile will lead to more positive thoughts, more confident emotions. Conversely, negative thoughts usually lead to negative feelings. 

If you find yourself struggling with a few runs, understand your thought process during the runs. Chances are it’s a negative, self-defeating thought that makes you question your abilities. Turn your thoughts into something positive, optimistic, and confidence-building. When you go out on the streets, it will help you feel good about yourself and crush your runs.

Don’t Make these Foam Rolling Mistakes

Recover faster when you avoid these foam rolling mistakes

Sore muscles are both an unavoidable evil and a pet peeve of most runners. Muscles break down due to the exertion from a run or workout. They need rest and soothing care to repair themselves. Muscle recovery is essential for any exhaustive exercise. But, it is especially true for cardio-muscular exercises, like running, swimming, and cycling. The older one gets, the more time that it takes for muscles to recover and the amount of care and attention that muscle recovery takes tends to increase. Speed up the recovery process when you avoid the 4 foam rolling mistakes below.

Foam rolling with its simple techniques is one of the most popular and trusted methods of muscle recovery for runners. However, one must be careful to do it right. The techniques of foam rolling if executed wrong can cause irreparable damage instead of boosting run recovery and muscle release. When foam rolling is done correctly, the benefits are enormous. Avoid the 4 foam rolling mistakes below to speed up the recovery process. Pro tip: learn how booty bands can strengthen your muscles and help prevent injury.

Don’t ignore the knots 

Foam rolling won’t be effective if you don’t take care of your knots (muscle adhesions) first. You can use a foam roller to loosen the knots. If they are localized in a small area, use a tennis or massage ball to ease the tension. Exert pressure on the area with your weight until you feel the muscles loosen. Then, lengthen the muscle out with a foam roller for 90 seconds.

Don’t skip the warm-up

Foam rolling is an effective warm-up and you shouldn’t skip it. It is advisable to set aside at least 10 minutes pre-workout or pre-run to foam roll. If your muscles aren’t properly attuned for the exertion, there is a high risk that you will pull on your adhesions which will increase pain and damage. Pro tip: add these 4 stretches to your foam rolling for the ultimate warm-up.

Don’t foam roll forever 

If you need more than 20-25 minutes of foam rolling (pre- and post-workout) it might be due to an underlying condition. You shouldn’t foam roll any muscle group of your body for more than 90 seconds. Excessive foam rolling of an injured muscle might increase pain. As a rule of thumb, it is advisable to underwork your muscle tissues than to overwork it. If you suspect an injury, visit Dr. Allen and the experts at Ascension Seton Sports Performance. They can identify the issue and help you become a better runner.

Don’t start with a textured roller

If you are an occasional runner, above 35 years of age, or new to foam rolling, do not start with a textured or hard roller. It will compress your muscles, make them stiff, cause needless pain. Start with an even and soft roller. Once your muscles become accustomed to the pressure, then incrementally move on to firmer and textured rollers.