You know the feeling—you are about 15 minutes into a run, and out of the blue you get a painful, constant side ache. And while there are techniques you can use to reduce their impact once they appear (see a future post), the PREVENTION is still your best defense. Try the following five tips, and you will be amazed at the results:
- Breathe Deeply. Highly renowned Olympian and running coach, Jeff Galloway, teaches that most side aches are the result of shallow breathing (see footnote 1). Shallow breathing is caused by running too fast (anaerobic effort), having too much food/fluid in your stomach, or simply by not taking in enough air in each breath. Focus on breathing deeply—especially during your warm-up miles.
- When to Eat. Finding the right time to eat or drink before a workout is very important. I use the word “finding” because this time is different for everyone. Start by not eating closer than two hours before a workout and not drinking closer than one hour before a workout. Then experiment to see if you are better off eating or drinking closer to, or farther from those benchmarks.
- What to Eat. While the cause of side aches is not fully known, it is thought that the right amounts of potassium, calcium, and sodium work to prevent side aches. In most cases someone will be deficient in potassium and calcium, and have excess sodium. While not proven, some argue that dairy increases your chances of getting a side ache. This can make it more difficult to get your daily requirement of calcium. Broccoli, salmon, and almonds can help supplement your calcium intake.
- Stay Hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids will decrease your chances of getting a side ache (as long as you don’t drink too closely to your workout). Remember that runners require more liquids than the average, recommended amounts.
- Sit-ups, Crunches, & Hyperextensions. You will notice that the first four tips are largely short-term measures. The most important tip to help prevent side aches in the long-run is to consistently do sit-ups, crunches, and hyperextensions. Sit-ups and crunches will strengthen your abs in the front, while hyperextensions will strengthen your lower back: a one-two punch that will knock out your side aches!