One common question among runners is how to avoid cramps in the stomach and sides while running. Painful, and sometimes debilitating, these cramps can stop a runner in his tracks faster than anything else. Fortunately, they can be prevented.
Doctors and medical experts still do not know the cause of stomach and side cramps while running. There are several theories about what causes it though. Some think that the force of running causes your stomach and other internal organs to bounce around inside of you. This stretches the connective tissue that holds each organ in place, causing pain. Another theory is that the connective tissue attached to your diaphragm gets jarred, which explains why most people experience pain on the right side.
Whatever the cause, there are five simple things that any runner can do to prevent these cramps from occurring.
- Never run on a full stomach. Avoid eating and drinking too much at least two hours before you plan to run. A full stomach sloshes around more easily and can cause cramps and sickness. Instead, eat small light snacks and sip on water to keep yourself hydrated and your energy up. Remember, dehydration can cause cramps too.
- Stretch before your run. Many runner take the time to stretch their legs before a good run, but the rest of your body needs it also. Stretch your sides and lower back before each run to decrease your risk of muscle cramps.
- Slow your pace. Though we like to push ourselves when running, sometimes the body just cannot take much more. Slowing up the pace for a few minutes can ease the pain of cramps already happening and prevent cramps that you are on the verge of having. You may need to slow to a steady walk for several laps before returning to a full run, but it will be worth it not to need to stop completely.
- Try deep breathing. If it is your diaphragm being jarred, deep breathing can help. The common runner's breathing technique is to inhale over three steps, then exhale over two steps. This slower, deeper breathing will stress your diaphragm muscle less and help you focus if you feel you are hitting the wall.
- Do core exercises between runs. Running can be great exercise, but you should also be working on your core muscles. Doing exercises aimed at your lower back and abdominal muscles will strengthen your core and prevent side cramps from happening. On the days you are not running, a simple thirty minute core routine may be enough to keep you strong.
Stomach and side cramps are the nemesis of many runners, both professional and amateur. Remember these five simple steps and you can prevent cramps before they strike, keeping you running for a long time.