Picture this: You're jogging along a leafy, tree-lined street, with the sun shining on your face, feeling the blood coursing through your veins ... when suddenly, your abdominal muscles start to ache. What's happening?
If you suffer from muscle soreness during or after a run, this is probably just abdominal fatigue from thoroughly exercising your core. It's fairly common to experience muscle soreness or stiffness, especially if you're a new runner.
If you're experiencing abdominal aches and pains after a long run, this is probably due to normal abdominal fatigue or delayed-onset muscle soreness; if the pain persists, it could be due to an injury.
Why Abs Are Sore After Running
When you run, you're primarily using your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves and hip flexors, but your abdominal and upper body muscles are getting a workout too. Your core provides stability, keeps the body erect and is a vital part of your movement. So it's no wonder you may experience sore abs after a long run, especially if you're a beginner or you've increased your distance or the intensity of your runs.
If you experience stomach pain when running, or after a run, it's probably abdominal fatigue or delayed-onset muscle soreness from exercising your core. If what you're experiencing is a burning sensation or side cramps, this could be related to your diaphragm.
According to an interview with Steven Magness (author of The Science of Running) in Wired, "When you're running, your diaphragm is working harder than you expect." Running can actually cause you to strain a ligament connecting your diaphragm to your ab muscles, hence the possible soreness or cramping you're feeling in your core.
Read more: Sore Muscles From Running & a Hot Tub
How to Deal With Stomach Pain
In short, if your abs are sore after running, it's probably because you're exercising your core in new, intense ways. However, if you're experiencing actual pain, this could be due to a number of reasons.
According to Runner's World, post-run lower-abdominal pain could be because of an inflammation of the joint where the pubic bones meet, a stress fracture, a problem with one of your organs in the abdomen or pelvis or inflammation of the hip adductor muscles. If you experience persistent stomach pain after a run, it's best to seek professional medical attention so that appropriate treatment can begin.
Read more: Stomach Pains After Running
How to Avoid Stomach Pains
To prevent lower-ab pain after running, try out some preventive measures: namely, adding weight training and ab exercises to your fitness regimen, staying hydrated, stretching before and after a run and replenishing your energy post-run.
WebMD recommends warming up and stretching for at least five minutes before and after you run This can include doing calf stretches, light yoga or walking, which can greatly reduce muscle stiffness and soreness, and help prevent injuries.
To help strengthen your core and abdominal muscles (the likely reason you're experiencing soreness), add some weight training and ab exercises, like crunches or situps, to the mix. Finally, stay properly hydrated to replenish electrolytes lost in sweat and try eating some protein after your workout to keep your energy levels up.