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How To Not Get Running Cramps

By on January 13, 2013

Cramps, everyone hates them.  But just what exactly is this annoying stitch in your side?  Well, the sad truth is that there is no one true cause of “runners’ cramp,” but the leading theory in recent years is that the exasperating pain is caused by your abdominal organs (such as the stomach, spleen, and liver) being bumped into each other due to the forces created when your feet meet the ground, causing connective tissue to pull, consequently stretching out nerves, causing pain in the region (just under the right side of one’s ribs).  Here are some tips you can use to combat the pain, and ensure smart running:

Exhale on your left foot

This is the golden tip.  Most runners exhale when their right foot touches the ground, this causes extra, downward pressure onto your liver, jumbling it around and pulling your diaphragm, causing a stitch in your side under your rib, where your liver is.

Don’t run a full stomach

The “wait an hour after eating before you swim” also applies to running, the only difference is that you won’t drown.  This is also includes liquids, which creates a paradox of sorts, because you need to stay hydrated, so don’t drink a bunch RIGHT before going on a big run, but do drink a good deal with your previous meal, then “empty” yourself before running.

Increase your potassium intake

This is the old, cliched, possibly placebo-induced method, but it never hurts to stay healthy by keeping your potassium levels up.  Though, there’s no need to immediately stock up on the bananas, as they rank relatively low on the total potassium scale.  Check out what foods are the highest in potassium HERE.

Breathe more air

Another proposed cause of runners’ cramp is a lack of oxygen, the only answer: breathe more.  Many runners make the mistake of only breathing in through their nose, which all but limits your oxygen, so breathe in through your mouth and nose simultaneously, your body will thank you.

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About Josh Perline

Josh is currently an undergraduate "Computer Science" and "Environmental Economics and Policy" double major at UC Berkeley, working as a Lab Assistant in the EECS department.

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