You’ve braved the cold, changed into your (unusually tight) workout gear and you’re ready to pound the pavement. The hardest part is over, so you think. You step out into the crisp air and shut the front door behind you, force your feet to pick up some speed and start to run. Less than a mile into your jog you’re marvelling at the endorphins that today’s motivation levels are providing, only to experience a sudden, crippling pain in your side, bringing your long-awaited workout to a swift halt. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts, right?
It’s easy to see how an accumulation of such experiences may leave us feeling deflated and de-motivated. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine (bjsm.bmj.com), 60 percent of regular runners experience these niggling muscle cramps, called stitches, with 42 percent claiming that it negatively impacts the regularity of their jogs. With this in mind, we’ve devised a few pointers to prevent that dreaded abdominal pain next time you manage to leave the comfort of your sofa.
“Giving yourself longer to digest food and drink reduces the chances of a stitch occurring,” says David Wiener, training specialist at Freeletics (freeletics.com). Fibrous and fatty foods are the culprits if eaten before taking to the treadmill, as they take longer to digest. “Be mindful when drinking fluids,” says Luke Hughes, personal trainer (origympersonaltrainers.co.uk), “as sugary drinks can put you at stitch risk when consumed before or during a workout.” It’s also advised that you don’t eat or drink anything for at least two hours before cardiovascular exercise.
Reach for the stars:
Small stretching exercises can help to ease abdominal pain if it starts to occur. Doing some ab training and working out your core prior to a race can strengthen the areas responsible for making your run full of cramp. The more you prepare your muscles to cope with the strain of endurance exercise, the better they’ll be at coping with the pressure.
Bend and breathe:
If the discomfort turns to pain, you’ll need to do something to calm it down. “Deep breathing and bending forwards are both musts,” recommends David, “as this contracts the abdominal muscles and can provide relief.” To relax the diaphragm, we suggest keeping your arms well above your head, taking a deep breath in and leaning your upper body forward. Then, exhale and allow your arms to dangle. It shouldn’t take long for the pain to subside, and hopefully you’ll have maintained your motivation to pick up the pace again.