As a running coach, people ask me ALL THE TIME why they get a cramp in their side while running. Those things are SO annoying when you are trying to run, aren’t they? They pull you right out of that zone you are in and make you feel like your lungs are going to explode! But reality is, they are pretty harmless.
The side cramp is actually a muscle spasm of the diaphragm, which is instrumental in breathing. Since your diaphram is a muscle it can also get fatigued. The cramp affects the diaphragm muscle, the supporting ligaments, tendons and surrounding connective tissue. That’s why it hurts so damn bad sometimes.
The spasms are usually a result from taking too shallow of a breath while running. They can also be caused from being dehydrated and having an electrolyte imbalance.
There are a couple of things that you can do to keep these cramps at bay while you run.
- Drink plenty of fluids BEFORE you run. Staying hydrated helps your muscles and ligaments perform correctly. So make sure that you are getting your daily intake of H2O. (64 ounces per day)
- Don’t eat 1 -2 hours before a run. If you can help it, don’t snarf down dinner and then head out to get in your mileage. Digestion takes a lot of energy for your body so you should eat your meals when you have time to allow digestion to be it’s main job.
- Make sure if you are planning to run for more than 60 minutes, that you carry water and fuel with you so that you can replenish any of those vital nutrients that your body is going to burn up on the run.
Often, these pesky diaphram spasms will creep up on us DURING a run. By then, it is too late to prevent them but there are a few things that you can do to help ease them up once they happen.
- Put your hands on the top of your head and focus on taking deep breaths. You want to breathe as deeply into your lungs as you can. Long, even, deep breaths.
- Press 2 fingers in on the side where you feel the cramp while focusing on taking deep breaths. Remember that the diaphram is a MUSCLE. Sometimes a gentle massage will help to ease the cramping.
- STRETCH. Lift arms up skyward, bend gently to the side AWAY from the cramp. Hold the stretch rather than bouncing. Don’t forget to breathe.
The more conditioning that you have, the less likely it is that you will experience these pesky side cramps. Prevention is key when reducing cramping muscles of any sort. Proper nutrtion and hydration are as important, if not more so, than how fast or how far you are going.