How to prevent stomach cramps while running?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Aug 12, 2010 1:20 PM GMT
    Over the past month or so I have gotten serious about training for soccer and I have been running a lot more/harder. The problem is I keep getting this cramp on my side about an inch or so below my pec. It is not something I can run through, I have tried and it just gets worse until I have to quit. Is there anything I can do to avoid this? I know my breathing isn't quite perfect yet. I don't eat before I run.
    Specific examples. Monday I only got to 1.5 miles at 6 min mile pace before it hit, yesterday I was able to do a little over 2 at a 6 min 30 sec mile pace before it hit.
    Is it just from not being in top shape? I am running in a 5 K this saturday and would love to complete it in a good time without cramping.
    Any advice or opinions are appreciated. I know this might not be the correct forum but the cardio/injury prevention forums seem to be very slow.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Jan 25, 2011 8:29 AM GMT
    I get the same thing sometimes, but not always. Not eating right before running is good, you don't want to run on a stomach full of food. Some of the things I can recommend that help me are:

    1 Keep proper form always
    2 Watch your breathing
    3 Increase distances gradually weekly when training
    4 Wear proper shoes according to your step (pronation vs supination)
    5 Proper stretching
    6 Stay hydrated
    7 Slow your speed down a little and see if the pain continues

    If the problem persists then probably check with your doctor to make sure everything's good icon_wink.gif
  • CDNinOZ

    Posts: 38

    Jan 25, 2011 8:55 AM GMT
    I'm no expert, but how long before a run do you eat? I realise that you said you don't eat right before... for me I have to wait at least two hours after a decent meal so I can run without cramps...
  • Jessie_Lee

    Posts: 113

    Jan 25, 2011 9:00 AM GMT
    For me, in my personal experience, something like that occurs if I eat right before running. It won't bother as much though if your body is used to having some food in your stomach. It also depends on how much food is in your stomach.

    The other reason from me is being dehydrated. Muscles cramp sometimes when forced to work while dehydrated.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Jan 27, 2011 2:29 PM GMT
    I get those whenever I eat anything in betwwen 2 hours before running. Also make sure when you drink water it is just small sips to keep your mouth and throat wet. The heavier your stomach is the easier you will hit them.
    Try taking deeps breaths and if needed a small break as soon as the start otherwise they just get worse.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Jan 27, 2011 2:33 PM GMT
    It sounds like it could be several things, and the suggestions are good. Don't push yourself too hard on the 5K - I've seen too many people do that in races. My dad used to organize runs and I remember seeing one guy come across the finish line very pale and sweaty, then he threw up and collapsed on the ground. It's easy to get caught up in the crowd and push yourself more than you should.

    I suggest doing a process of elimination as you run, to find out the cause. Others have mentioned potential causes, so you could try each one and see which eliminates the problem:

    1) Slow your running speed
    2) Practice breathing correctly
    3) Drink more water
    4) Eat more potassium
    5) Adjust your diet

    ....or you could do all of the above.

    Cramping, and side stitches, are a common occurrence during running. Mine is normally caused by not breathing properly.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Jan 28, 2011 11:21 PM GMT
    tcg1787 saidOver the past month or so I have gotten serious about training for soccer and I have been running a lot more/harder. The problem is I keep getting this cramp on my side about an inch or so below my pec. It is not something I can run through, I have tried and it just gets worse until I have to quit. Is there anything I can do to avoid this? I know my breathing isn't quite perfect yet. I don't eat before I run.
    Specific examples. Monday I only got to 1.5 miles at 6 min mile pace before it hit, yesterday I was able to do a little over 2 at a 6 min 30 sec mile pace before it hit.
    Is it just from not being in top shape? I am running in a 5 K this saturday and would love to complete it in a good time without cramping.
    Any advice or opinions are appreciated. I know this might not be the correct forum but the cardio/injury prevention forums seem to be very slow.


    Hi, I've been running competitively for about 9 years now and I can say with 100% certainty that you're running your runs too fast. If your race speed is a 6mm your training pace(the pace you will build your mileage at) should be 60-90 seconds behind. To give you some perspective, my training pace hovers between 6:00 and 6:30 for quality runs, but my long run(15 miles) is at an 7:30mm pace. My 5k PR is 15:59, and my times are consistently in the low 16:00s.


    Side stitches occur from improper breathing and diet usually. Are you taking short, shallow breaths? Your breaths should be deep and long. Try and sync your breathing to the sound of your feet stomping the ground or a song if you run with music.

    You might want to up your calcium and salt intake as a depletion of both(or either) can result in cramps or 'stitches'. Eating before a run can result in stomach cramps, but you say it's below the peck so it is mostly likely the result of improper breathing.

    5k is a very short race so you're always going to feel like you're sucking wind, and moreso since you're not properly trained for the distance(If you run at a 6mm pace I suspect you will hit a wall and slow down dramatically, if not stop to walk by mile 2.) I suggest you not run it and instead focus on building your miles(no more than 10% increase a week) at a sustainable pace, but if you're set on it I think it is a better idea that you run to finish. It's a short distance but you can still injure yourself.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Jan 28, 2011 11:22 PM GMT
    lack of potassium
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Jan 29, 2011 1:17 AM GMT
    This is what is commonly known as a "side stitch." We've all had them. As mentioned above...breathing and/or eating too close to your run.

    Article I found suggests that too shallow or too frequent breathing is a common cause. As a cross country/track coach I tell my athletes to slow down, play around with different eating times (keep in mind that dairy tends to digest slowly - some runners avoid dairy prior to running), and change breathing patterns until you find something that works.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Jan 29, 2011 1:22 AM GMT
    I have this exact problem when I eat within 2 or 3 hours before I go on a long run.

    As some of the others have posted, this is likely the case. Also, oddly enough, sometimes drinking too much water before or during your run can lead to these cramps.
  • Glorfindel

    Posts: 277

    Jan 29, 2011 1:31 AM GMT
    In addition to the advice given above, I would also say:

    1) Try eating something 30ish minutes pre run. not much. I drink a cup of OJ and sometimes a small granola bar/power bar (100 calorie bar or so). Something to give you some energy. Stay away from dairy products. Trust, that can end REALLY badly. icon_eek.gif

    2) When you start getting stitches in your side, figure out which side it's predominantly on, and concentrate on breathing out when the foot on that side hits the ground. So if the cramp is coming on your right side, concentrate on heavy exhales when your right foot hits the ground. That was the advice given to me when I was getting cramps and it has definitely worked.

    Good luck!