Getting a stitch can suck, and whether you’re exercising or not, it can certainly disrupt our rhythm. Fortunately for us, there are some ways around it. Firstly, the secret to preventing stitches is to know what causes them. Check it out:
The pain in your side is actually the by-product of a process called blood shunting. This is simply the process of blood being distributed to another part of the body.
For example: When we start exercising our blood is immediately sent to our muscles in order to supply sufficient oxygen. So what causes the discomfort? Well the pain comes when the blood is taken away from where its needed in order to supply our muscles with oxygen.
The main cause of this is eating a big meal within 2 hours of intense exercise. This way, during exercise blood is taken away from our digestive system to supply our muscles, leaving our digestive system unable to complete proper digestion until after exercise when the blood can return. Still with me? Good.
This sudden shift in blood distribution is what causes the discomfort in our abdominal and oblique region. The pain can be so disruptive that many have to stop exercising until it passes, (which can take some time!) many people even attempt to work through the discomfort which can sometimes only make it worse. The solution? To stop it before it starts! Check it out:
Don’t eat before exercise – The main solution to avoid getting a stitch is to avoid heavy eating before intense exercise. (This is often a problem at breakfast time, as many people like to hit their workouts in the morning)
As you probably know already, everybody is different, and therefore some people can run a marathon 5 minutes after a Carvery, where as most people will have to wait a solid 2 hours after a dense meal before exercise. Everyone is different, and therefore its important to find what works for you.
(If you really need that extra energy boost before your session, you could always resort to energy supplements such as energy gels or bars.)
How do you drink your water? – A common mistake is to think that water is going to make it go away. When in-fact, taking multiple gulps of water in one go will only make it worse, by distributing the blood flow even further. The best thing to do it to take small sips throughout your workout rather than long sips.
Short term solutions:
So let’s say you’ve slipped up, you’ve misjudged your meal times, or taken in way too much water. Fortunately for us, there are some ways that we can try to sooth it, without calling it a day and hitting the showers.
Deep breaths – If you already have a stitch, the only way we can help it is to get some blood back to the effected area. This can be done by taking long deep breaths to maximise the amount of oxygen we’re taking in. As simple as it sounds, it’s effective! You can even supplement this by placing your hands on the top of your head. This will allow for additional expansion of the rib cage, resulting in much easier, and lighter breathing.
Warm up – Along with many other benefits, a good warm up will ease slowly increase our blood flow, as oppose so a sudden increase and distribution.
Slow down – When a stitch strikes, rather than attempting to beat it, by slowing down and letting it settle, you will be better off in the long run.
In conclusion, getting a stitch hardly means that you’re unfit. It simply means you have poorly planned the build up to your session. It is important to note that there is no definitive cure to a stitch. However through a combination of understanding a cause, and personal experience, you’re no doubt going to be better off getting to know what works for you, warming up before each session, and timing your meals!