How to Avoid Stomach Cramps While Running

Stomach cramps while running can be painful and distracting. You may feel a sharp pain in your abdomen, or the discomfort may be located higher--usually on your right side, under your ribs--and is called a side stitch. According to military.com, the jostling motion of running causes your stomach and other organs to collide, leading to painful stretching of connective tissues. Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate and work through the pain, as well as to increase your chances of preventing stomach cramps. Rice University Extension notes that severe, progressive gastrointestinal symptoms may be signs of a more serious condition; see your doctor if pain persists.

A few sips of water during a run can uncramp your running style. (Image: Eyecandy Images/Eyecandy Images/Getty Images)

Step 1

Schedule your run for a time that is at least two hours after you have eaten; four hours is even better. If you are planning a competitive or long-distance run, Rice University Extension warns against eating a lot of fiber the day before, and the morning of, the race. Marathon Training suggests that in the case of diarrhea caused by running, the runner should review foods eaten up to 12 hours before the run to identify the problem; high-roughage foods such as salads and cereals are often the culprits. Do not drink large amounts of water before a run; a lot of water sloshing in your stomach can induce and aggravate stomach cramps. After the workout, you should fully rehydrate.

Step 2

Keep your fluid intake small and regular to avoid dehydration. Military.com warns that dehydration is a common cause of stomach cramping during running, especially if you are running for more than half an hour, or running in the heat. Rice University concurs, adding that dehydration while running can cause intestinal cramps, stomachache, and nausea. Take liquids in small amounts, such as two swallows, before and during the workout. Both plain water and Gatorade or other sports drink are good choices. According to Rice University, your sports drink should contain less than 10 percent glucose; these are better absorbed by your system. Marathon Training notes that dehydration can develop into a life-threatening situation, and recommends proper hydration and nutrition before and after running.

Step 3

Decrease your pace for a few minutes if a stomach cramp strikes, and breathe deeply and regularly. Military.com recommends inhaling for three steps--pushing your stomach out as you breathe in--and exhaling for two steps while relaxing your stomach.

Things You'll Need

  • Water or sports drink containing less than 10 percent glucose

  • Flask or canteen

Tip

Stretching well before running may help you avoid stomach cramps. Military.com advises side torso twists, and suggests lifting your arms over your head while leaning to the left and right at the waist.

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