Things like sore muscles and fatigue can tend to slow you down when you’re running, but a side cramp can really put a damper on your workout. A cramp in your side happens when your diaphragm has a spasm due to too much stress or fatigue. Cramps are very common among beginning runners as well as those who are trying to take their workouts to the next level.
Don’t let running cramps prevent you from achieving your fitness goals – try out these strategies that are sure to stop side cramps in their tracks:
Avoiding certain foods before a workout
While eating before a run isn’t bad, there are certain foods that can contribute to the formation of cramps. Foods high in fat and fiber take a long time to digest, which can cause there to be less blood flowing to your diaphragm, inducing a spasm. Even beverages that are high in sugar can cause your side to cramp up during a run. Before each workout, jot down what you ate, and afterward, make a note of whether or not you experienced side cramps. This way, you will be able to tell which foods tend to induce cramps, and which ones are OK to eat before an intense workout.
Start off slow
Instead of breaking into a full sprint, give your body time to adjust by starting off with a fast-paced walk or a light jog. Irregular breathing patterns can occur when you don’t warm up properly, and that can be a cause of side cramps. Take 5 minutes or so before you workout to prepare your muscles.
Dehydration is a common cause of muscle cramps, so make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water before, during and after your workout. If you have trouble remembering when to hydrate your body while you’re running, set reminders on your watch or phone to ensure that your body is getting enough water.
Focus on your breathing
When you’re running, it can be easy to forget about your breathing pattern. Taking short, shallow breaths won’t give your muscles enough oxygen to function, and can cause that stabbing pain in your side. Make sure that you’re inhaling and exhaling fully and deeply to provide your body with ample oxygen.
Strengthen your core
A stronger core is going to be less vulnerable to muscle fatigue. You can actually strengthen diaphragm muscles by doing simple core exercises such as planks, oblique twists and sit-ups. Yoga and Pilates are another great way to strengthen your core muscles to give you a better workout with fewer side cramps.