Hi guys,
Over the past couple of weeks I've developed severe cramp/stitch in my tummy, usually about halfway through my run. I don't eat beforehand so I'm not sure why this is happening and how to prevent it.
Any tips?


  • I've now been running for about seven months, the first two or three of which were a bit of a lottery, as i'd often be bent double with a stitch I just couldn't shift.

    As a result I now have a strict eating regime before running, which goes something like this: Most of my running is done in the late afternoon / evening so I eat a normal lunch, but give myself at least three hours, and more often four until running. I drink water regularly throughout the day, but avoid drinking a large amount in the hour before running and about an hour before a run I eat a banana for an energy boost.

    Since implementing this, any cramps I do get can usually be run off pretty quickly and I probably only get them on one in four runs now.

    I guess some of it is down to the stomach muscles and diaphragm getting used to the jostling, and i've read other posters who suggest ways of getting rid of it by employing different breathing exercises, but this works for me.

    Good luck in shifting it.
  • Thanks Filbert. I was running last night and the same thing happened - having last eaten at lunch time and drunk plenty of water. I guess it's trial and error but I'll try your tips. My running partner suggested breathing exercises so I'll give it all a go!
  • I did read somewhere that it helps to concentrate on breathing deep within your diagphram when you run. I think there maybe a mention about it in this months issue of RW.
  • Jo , how far do you run ?
  • I'm training for my first 10k at the moment so up to about 40 mins, 3 times a week plus gym. I seem to be ok for the first 20 mins then it starts and gets progressively worse. I'm trying to run through it but it's really holding me back at the moment - the only thing which helps is stopping and bending over.
  • I was plagued with stitch/cramp almost every run for more than a year to begin with, running evenings after work, found more or less exactly Filberts method too by trial and error - works pretty well - frantic drinking in the last hour before my run because I'd forgotten earlier made it worse.
    I never get a problem in an early morning or mid-morning run. I don't have loads of energy early in the morning but I like that empty, light feel.

    I try to avoid bread for lunch on running days, found this by accident, it seems to help I do have a pretty "windy tummy"(!) so try to avoid all the things I know will make it worse! Rules out pretty much everything for me except porridge!!

    Also trying to do a 2:3 breathing as much as poss,helps too I found this difficult at first, but now it's automatic, I was always doing 2:2 (probably always in and out on th same foot).

    I discovered by accident in winter, tying my top tightly round my waist quite high up, I thought this was because it stopped me gasping for breath too much, but then I read an article about your insides joggling about, so perhaps this helps stop that!! Feels comforting too.

    Now I run more regularly I don't have such a problem, but if I lay off or cut down for whatever reason it seems worse when I try to do more.

    Hope some of this might help.
  • also -- eating nothing at all made me worse - bananas are good I think so long as ripe.
  • I only get a stitch occasionally, but when I do I find that raising both hands high above my head to stretch the diaphragm and stomach muscles invariably helps and after a minute or two I can continue. Also, pressing on the area can aleviate discomfort but unlike the first method it doesn't make it go away.
  • I can agree with Katie, the arm stretching thang seems to work for me also... I tend to do it as I'm running along, so unfortunately I look fairly stupid.
  • Does anyone know if it is good idea to drink water throughout running. As one friend told me this can cause cramps? Is this true???
  • If you are running for more than 40 min you are supposed to take on water. I run for 90 min and dont bother, as I HATE carrying a bottle. I have a pint of water before my run and drink about 2 litres of water when I finish, and about the same again through the day (I run in the morning). If you aren't peeing every hr, you arent drinking enough water.
    If you are only doing 30 min runs, you should not get thirsty. If you do, then you were probably dehydrated before you started.

    The only time I've ever had a stitch was when I used to run in the afternoon.
  • To Nemo

    Thanks for your advice. I hate carrying around a bottle but I am thining of getting one of those carrying belts.

  • Emm, I got a running belt for crimbo and wore it last weekend for a half marathon - it was a life saver!
  • i find deep breaths in and holding it for a few seconds tends to work, if you can try i know it sounds daft but try and fill the side of the lung where the stitch is ( i said it sounds daft).

    something else that helps me as im a new lucozade sport,but its the powder one you mix with water,using the running bottle thingy, i find it quality... im upto 11miles best time 1.41 doing great north run, cant wait lol
  • I get the odd stitch occasionally and found that the tip in the Runner's World magazine helps a lot and shifts it.
    It said to forcibly breath out as the foot on the oppposite side to the stitch hits the floor.
    Works every time.
  • I am training for my first FLM and its not getting any easier. The furthest i have run is 14k.

    I have been running three days per week since August 2004. I know that i am not going to win but just need to know that i am going to get round!

    Any ideas??
  • Slow Jo
    I used to get a stitch regularly, it took a few months for it to get better. Now I get it occasionally, but never as bad.

    I reckon a lot has to do with fitness (for different parts of your bodies!) and unless you eat or driink just before a run, I suspect you will be fine in the future.

    Raising arms is good. The best breathing exercise for me:
    Breathe in and extend belly at the same time and when you exhale, tighten your stomach muscles.
  • This could just be psychological but hey woth a try. When i get a stictch i just suck my belly in as i run and after a while it goes. Suppose it's the same idea as the jacket tied around the waist to stop the insides jiggling about!
  • The technical reason for stitch seems to be that its caused by the ligaments that hold the liver in place. The liver hangs off the diaphragm by these ligaments, and at the same time when you exhale the liver is pushed up - so the ligament gets a bit of a bashing. Heres the proof, well its more of a realistic theory...
    The advice seems to be the tried and tested method of pressing hard on the area of pain, this seems to sort the problem.
  • Lee,

    There is a thread in the training section Shades Marathon Training. Shades has done a 3 day per week schedule which she is offering to people if they email her with their email address.

    The thread doesn't usually go off the first page so you should find it easily.
  • I am suffering the same problem with "stitches". I have never exercised before, am 9 st 5ft 7, so although slim am very unfit. I have had to repeat week one twice and also withweek two (2 mins running 1 min walking) but found I cannot get further than my third set due to painful stitches, I feel like giving up. I dont know anyone who runs so cannot ask about breathing techniques. Can any one help me, Im feeling really disillusioned. Thanks
  • As others have said, concentrating on breathing deeply will help. Try to do this even before you get a stitch, to try and prevent it in the first place.

    Also, if you find you're 'gasping' for breath a bit, this will often result in stitch - Slow down to a more manageable pace and again concentrate on breathing deeply.

    If I do get stitch, I find that pressing hard on the painful area really helps. With that and the deep breathing I can usually run through it without having to stop.

    Also, as others have said, how soon you run after eating of drinking will make a difference, but you need to ecxperiment with what's right for you. Personally, any quantity of liquid too close to a run will give me stitch, so I try to keep hydrated during the day but have nothing for at least an hour (if not more) beforehand. In the summer I'll take a drink with me, but just take small sips rather than any large volume at once.

    As for eating, I'll leave at least 3 hours between a main meal and running, but I do find I get cramps if my stomach is completely empty, so I often have one or 2 plain biscuits just before my run.

    Good luck with finding what works for you.


  • I don't think eating makes much difference really. I work on a site where after a 12hr shift, dinner is served in the canteen at 7PM and its the only decent meal of the day. I usually use the running machine at around 9PM. I run at a constant pace and have been slowly increasing speed and distance so I have allowed my body to find its own rhythm. The only downside to running on a non empty stomach that I have experienced is the occassional food burp.
    When I first began to excercise regularly a friend told me that the secret is taking deep relaxed breaths fully expanding the lungs, the rush of oxygen kills the cramp really quickly and you should not have to slow down at all.
    I have found by running at a constant pace I never over exert myself and can steadily raise the speed and distance without having to gasp for air. In fact I breath at the same rate now as when I started, but it just seems to go further...
  • Recently I've had really bad leg cramps - usually just on one leg at my calf & always at night when I'm asleep.  I stretch out & suddenly I get this unbearable gripping pain just at the inside of my calf - it feels rock solid & only goes away after a really hard massage but I'm usually left with a tight pain for a few days afterwards.  Any one got any solutions? 
  • I'm trying all different techniques to beat my runnning cramps but I also get a sharp pain in my shoulder/neck when I get a cramp and can't seem to shake it off, any suggestions?
  • Shold you suffer from stitch, the first (and best) cure is to slow down or stop until the stitch is gone. If you do not want to stop, you can try to press your hand onto the part of your abdomen where the stitch is, and release the pressure on expiration. Repeat this several times.

    Tim Quinlivan, a PE Teacher in Australia, has found the following method works well with his young athletes:

        * Slow your pace slightly

        * Grasp your side where you feel the stitch just under the bottom rib and half way across between the side and the belly button. Thumb to the rear and fingers to the front

        * Squeeze firmly and bend at the waist (45-90 degrees) while still running

        * After about 15 metres slowing straighten

        * The stitch should have gone

    An alternative method based on the theory it is caused by the synchronisation of the movement of the organs and the diaphragm is to synchronise your breathing pattern with your running, and exhale/inhale when the foot on the non hurting side strikes the ground.

    For example: if you have stitch in your right hand side, change your breathing pattern so you exhale/inhale as your left foot strikes the ground.

    How can I avoid Stitch?

    Strengthen your abdominal muscles (core stability), keep your upper body warm, do not run too soon after meals and learn "abdominal breathing".

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