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Exercises Movements, technique & proper execution

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Old 09-21-2005, 01:17 PM   #1
Bryan Edge
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About a week and a half ago (plus or minus) I ran a 5K for time. I was running fairly strong. (I generally try to keep around an 8MPH pace.) Unfortunately, I hit about the 16 minute mark and got such a severe side cramp that I had to slow to a walk/slow jog for several minutes, totally killing my time. (Current PR is about 22:50 for 3.2 miles). I was very sore from Dumbell Thrusters and other exercises from a previous WOD.

Yesterday, feeling stronger and more recovered,
I again started a 5K run for Time. Again, I felt pretty strong, jumping right into about an 8-8.2MPH pace and holding it for twenty minutes... at which point, at about the 2.85 mile mark and mere minutes away from a personal record, I was again hit with a severe side cramp and had to slow down to brisk walk/slow jogging pace, ruining my time completely. (I think I finished at 25:07 -- over two minutes over my PR). I was disappointed to say the least.

My question is this: Should I insert a minute or two of a slower pace into my jog? Does anyone know what causes this and how I might potentially avoid these nasty, run-stopping side cramps?

Thanks in advance for any info!

-P. Bryan Edge-Salois

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Old 09-21-2005, 02:14 PM   #2
Eugene R. Allen
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Here's an article I found for you regarding the side stich. Hope it helps.

What Your Symptom Is Telling You

You're running a 10-K or dashing to catch the bus when all at once your side feels as if it's caught in a giant lobster's claw.

Anyone who pumps their legs fast while breathing rapidly can get caught in the clenches of a side stitch. A side stitch is usually a cramp in the diaphragm—the large muscle located between your lungs and abdomen that controls breathing. It's often caused when the diaphragm isn't getting enough blood during exercise. Here's how it happens.

Pumping your legs increases the pressure on your abdominal muscles, which press up against the diaphragm. At the same time, rapid breathing expands your lungs, which press down on the diaphragm. The dual pinching from above and below shuts off the flow of blood and oxygen to the diaphragm.

Without enough oxygen, muscles will go into painful spasms, according to Mona Shangold, M.D., director of the Sports Gynecology and Women's Life Cycle Center at Hahnemann University in Philadelphia and coauthor of The Complete Sports Medicine Book for Women.

Those who are new to exercise are most prone to side stitches. Beginners are more apt to take rapid, shallow breaths and may also push themselves before their abdominal muscles are ready to deal with the exertion. These muscles may not be strong enough to protect against the bouncing that jostles internal organs and pulls on the diaphragm.

It's also possible that food itself may add to the diaphragm's distress. A meal of less digestible, fatty food before exercising will make the stomach heavier and increase the tugging on the diaphragm.

A side stitch can sometimes be felt all the way up to the shoulder. But this kind of pain may signal a heart attack, especially if it persists after you've spent a few minutes stretching. And if you get a side stitch each time you exercise, you could have a problem with blood flow to the intestine.

Symptom Relief

Often, just slowing your pace will relieve a side stitch on the spot. If not, try these methods.

Stop and blow. If you can't lie down when the stitch strikes, at least stop and press your fingers deeply into the painful spot, says Dr. Shangold. That's normally just below the ribs, on the right side. Then, purse your lips tightly and blow out as hard as you can. This should ease the tension on your diaphragm and you'll be running stitch-free, according to Dr. Shangold.

Reach for the clouds. Walking slowly with your arms raised over your head is another fast way to stretch out the tightness, according to Kim Edward LeBlanc, M.D., clinical assistant professor of family medicine at Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans. Inhale deeply as you raise your arms up, and exhale slowly as you drop them.

Become a belly breather. To stop side stitches before they start, breathe fully and deeply by pushing your abdomen out with each inhale during your workout. To get a feeling of how this is done, says running coach Owen Anderson, Ph.D., editor of Running Research News, lie on your back with a book on your stomach. The book should raise up with each inhale and your shoulders should not move. Belly breathing also helps strengthen the abdominal walls. "Strong abdominal muscles provide a supportive 'internal girdle' so there is less bouncing and pulling on the diaphragm," says Dr. Anderson.

Pace yourself. "Go slow when starting a new activity," says Dr. LeBlanc. "Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workout until your breathing and body become conditioned for the increased activity."

Postpone your post-dinner workout. If you are stitch-prone, wait one to two hours after eating before you work out, says Dr. LeBlanc.

Go easy on the fat. Fatty, high-protein foods such red meat and dairy products tend to linger longer in your stomach, says Dr. Anderson. This can create pressure and a downward tug on your diaphragm. If you must eat and run, stick to more digestible foods such as half a ripe banana.
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Old 09-21-2005, 02:48 PM   #3
Brian McCarrie
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When I started running, I soon realized that every run can't be a PR. You have to give your body time to adjust, level off and then improve. Trying to make every run a PR is the road to injury, burnout and frustration.

With that in mind, it actually sounds like you're doing pretty good. Give yourself a bit of time. Make sure you drink some water before your run and try to regulate your breathing.

Sometimes it helps to focus on a point way down the road while getting into a rythm of breathing and stepping.

Give it a little time. You'll break that PR. I'm sure.

Good luck
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Old 09-21-2005, 11:59 PM   #4
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Having suffered through many a side stitch, inlcuding the one in the article that travels up to the chest and shoulder making me think I was having a heart attack, I think that article sums up every bit of good advice I've gotten on the subject. The one other cause sometimes is gas trapped in your intestine. In any case, the best luck I've had with dealing with them during a run is jabbing my fingers in where it hurts, sort of up under your ribs. Then think about your breathing. I've been running long enough that I only get them now when I try for shorter faster times and my bretahing comes up close 1 breath per two strides or faster.

The best solution, however, is avoiding them, and for that you need to run just a little more, at least until your body adjusts and the muscles that fail and cause the cramps get stronger. I don't think it helps that you are pushing it to the max every time you run. Maxing your effort for shorter distances and taking it easy for a little longer distances should strengthen your core running muscles without the risk of cutting off that oxygen and causing a cramp. When I don't run for few months and come back I always get side stitches for a little while. Running is the best cure. Concentrate on regular calm breathing, keeping your head up and your body stable.
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Old 09-22-2005, 06:40 AM   #5
Bryan Edge
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Thanks everyone! I'm printing that article and saving it for my notebook.

I've been running a long time (mostly short distances/recreationally/fitness) and I'm a pretty regular runner -- so I think the most likely cause based on your advice and that article is just pushing myself too hard, too fast, and shooting for a PR before I'm rerally ready to make another gain. I generally breath deeply, but once I start pushing real hard as the run gets rougher, my breathing definitely gets shallower, so this article makes a lot of sense.

This should really help out! Thanks again!

-P. Bryan Edge-Salois
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