Most triathletes have, at some point, experienced muscle cramps or the dreaded side stitch during a workout or race. Here’s what you need to know to prevent them in the future.
Side cramps are usually caused by shallow breathing or not breathing deeply from the lower lungs. Muscle cramps can be caused by dehydration, mineral deficiencies, muscle fatigue and muscle damage.
How can you prevent them?
To help prevent side cramps, try deep lung breathing–even expanding your belly in an exaggerated way. If you’re running, try to avoid starting our to fast, make sure you do a proper warm up and that you are practicing good running posture. To help prevent muscle cramps try and make sure you are well hydrated before and during your workout. To help prevent a muscle cramp during a race make sure you are following a pace matched to your fitness so that it’s less likely that your muscle will seize up.
If you get a side cramp, try pressing your fingers into the area where you feel the stitch, this should help relieve some of the pain. Also try to changing your breathing/striding pattern, and focus more on deep breathing. If all else fails, try walking and focusing on your breathing for a few minutes.