you're on a great run, feeling strong and full of energy, when suddenly you feel a little twinge in your side. Soon, you can't take a deep breath and might even have to stop running completely.
I see it all the time and it's a common complaint - the Stitch. It can turn a fantastic run into walking frustration in a split second.
But you can Ditch the Stitch!
First, it's helpful to know why stitches happen in the first place.
Without getting too technical, stitches happen when your diaphragm - the big portobello mushroom muscle at the bottom of your ribcage that helps you breathe - cramps up. You'll likely feel a charlie-horse sensation in your side.
How to fix a stitch when it happens:
The best way is to stretch your diaphragm.
Got a stitch on the right side? Lift your right arm as high as you can, stretching your side waist and taking really long, deep breaths while expanding your lungs as much as possible. You can do this while running, walking, or you may have to stop. The spasm should be gone in about 5 breaths.
How to avoid a stitch in the first place:
First, we have to understand why stitches happen. Most often, it's from bad breathing mechanics while you're running. Yes - there really is such a thing.
If you're a runner who breathes as an 'accessory' to your stride, meaning your feet run at a certain pace, but your breath doesn't match your stride at all, I'll bet you get a lot of side stitches.
To avoid stitches, your stride needs to match your breath, not the other way around.
My favorite method is to take one breath in for every 2 steps, and one breath out for every 2 steps, saying "In In, Out Out" in my head with every step. In this example, you're taking 4 steps for every 2 breaths and your stride speed and length is adjusted to your breath and not the other way around.
The point is not to match this rhythm exactly, but to simply have a rhythm. You might find that your stride gets longer or shorter based on your breathing rhythm, or you need to take one breath every 3-4 steps. Whatever it is, find a rhythm that you can stick to!
Simply put: breathing is THE most important part of being a successful runner. Your speed, distance and endurance will improve the minute you start finding your rhythm. I guarantee it.
And if it doesn't, call me. I will personally prove to you that it does!
Have you had experiences with stitches? Leave them in the comments below!