Question: Last spring, I started to run. I began with just one mile, and can now easily complete three before my side starts to hurt. The rest of my body can keep running, however the dull, constant pain in either of my sides slows me down. It occurs below my ribs - always on a side. I am careful to not eat or drink within 1 1/2 hours of running. What should I do? Robin
Answer: Hi Robin, Your "stitches" could result from a few different things: a spasm of your diaphragm, caused by breathing shallowly and rapidly with your chest instead of more deeply and evenly using your diaphragm; weak abdominal muscles; and you may be starting off too fast. There are a few things you can do to try to reduce your stitches: 1) Usually people breathe in and out on the same footfall - try changing your respiratory cycle so that, instead of breathing in and out as your right foot lands, for example, try inhaling and exhaling as your left foot lands. The footfall-to-breath ratio is either 4:1 while jogging and 2:1 while running faster. 2) Strengthen your abdominal muscles with crunches. 3) Train yourself to breathe relaxed, slowly and deeply, using your diaphragm. 4) Remember to warm up.
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