Abdominal stitches

Do you get the dreaded running stitch? Here's how to avoid stitches and what to do if you get a stitch: 

How to avoid stitches

Plan and time what you eat and drink as these can have a huge impact! Any intolerance to certain foods, which might even be so mild or barely detectable in day to day life i.e. too much wheat, certain dairy, certain fruit etc can be the chink in the armour that brings on a stitch with running 

Avoid eating a main meal inside 3-4hrs of training/event and avoid eating big meals generally - meals that are too big even a few hrs before can be a huge cause of stitches! 

Eat a suitable diet to meet your energy demands including sufficient carbohydrates

Practice eating your pre-training brekkie / snack 1.5-2hrs before your training runs or even a small something 1/2 - 1 hour before your run if you have just woken up in the morning

Pre-training snack can be low fat, low sugar, low-medium protein & high carb. For example try suitable type of toast or rice thins plus honey / jam and ripe banana or other type of fruit plus your usual cup of coffee or tea with suitable milk 

Keep adequately hydrated as dehydration can bring on the cramp/stitch. Water is your number 1 drink!

Try sports drink to help replace electrolytes for intense or hot sessions or for long runs over 90mins . Avoid other sugary drinks unless you are training for certain events like ultras

Adequate warm up before training or event

Check your technique. Aim for a smooth, rhythmic gait and relax the mind & posture 

Iron out any tight, restrictive areas with stretching, self massage, a sports massage, or a session with your osteo, physio or chiro etc

Deep belly breathe - relax the belly & inhale deeply into the belly. Exhale fully to allow the diaphragm full range of motion & to release tension (diaphragmatic breathing). Practice rhythmic breathing such as breathing in for 2-3 steps and out for 2-3 steps. Breathe through your mouth as well as your nose as your nose is too small a space! 

- If you do longer events like half marathons etc then practice using energy gels & sports drinks during your long runs if you’ll be using them during your event

- Don’t try anything new on event day - not even having a little lolly if you've never tried this before in training  

If you get a stitch?:

- Ease off the pace, if it's really bad you might need to stop and walk, relax and breathe until it eases off sufficiently for you to keep going

- Deep belly breathe - inhale / breathe into the belly and also exhale / breathe out fully 

- If you're feeling really tense, stop and stretch your upper body - chest, back, shoulders, stomach, then start walking then ease into jogging

- If you can try to keep running and practice getting rid of the stitch whilst you're still moving

- Check and fix your form - relax shoulders, shake out arms, elevate chest, run tall

- Have a few sips of water as you might be a bit dehydrated 

Check out this article for more great info: http://www.functionalrunning.com.au/run-basics/flicking-switch-running-stitches/