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Monday, February 28, 2011

Solutions for preventing stitch during a triathlon

" I was wondering if you have any advise on possible solutions to avoid getting the stitch off the bike. My daughter is 15, and this problem is occurring about every 3rd race. Basically she can either not finish the race or  virtually crawls home , and this totally destroys the result and is causing much distress, and she can almost not breathe or move, with all that effort in training wasted. The stitch rarely occurs in a run on its own. Everything tried has failed. "
There are a number of possibilities.  I will only list the ones I think are most relevant to your daughter:

  • Using a drink or gel that is upsetting the digestive tract.  Try plain water or a heavily diluted drink.
  • Drinking too much while on the bike causing the stomach to stretch and slosh under the weight while running.  Try drinking less.
  • Gulping water, consequently getting air into the intestines.  Try not to swallow air while sucking/gulping.
  • Spasm of the diaphragm. During intense cycling, this breathing muscle works very, very hard and may go into spasm from the effort.
  • Abdominal muscle spasm.  If, during intense cycling, she is pulling excessively with the arms, the transverse abdominals may be over-worked.  Running is an intense transverse abdominal workout.
  • The solution to the previous two possibilities is to join a cycle club and get experience at bike racing with the pros. Race-hardening is the solution.
Please read the advice in this article here:  It is likely, as well, that there are significant nutrient deficiencies associated with a high carbohydrate athlete diet, complicated by the enormous nutrient demands of puberty.  A Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis would be appropriate as an investigative tool.

Please follow the link at the end of this article to read the draft section about "Stitch" from the new and improved E-Book "Running or Walking a Marathon" that will be released in a few months from now.  The information and advice is relevant.

I keep getting the stitch when I run

Stitch is a sharp pain in the side of the abdomen or lower chest that can be so intense that running is next to impossible. It is most common in beginner runners and is most likely to come on when running fast, or running on uneven terrain or running downhill. Stitch may be a number of things:
  • Excessive stress on the ligaments that hold the stomach in place due to all the sloshing and jostling that happens when running.
  • Part of the broad breathing muscle (diaphragm) that separates the chest cavity from the abdomenal cavity going into spasm because it is not used to working so hard.
  • Air in the intestines causing colic-like symptoms when the gut slaps and sloshes about when running.
  • Spasm of part of the abdominal muscles which are working hard to stabilise the spine.

Try the following to get immediate relief:

  • Eliminate jolting and jostling:
  • Slow the pace right down for several minutes, even if that means walking.
  • Walk downhills
  • Concentrate on deep, slow breathing with the action coming from the lower hest and upper abdomen area, rather than the upper chest and shoulders.
  • Press the fingers or thumb deep into the painful area and maintain the pressure for at least a minute while still running or walking.
  • Stop altogether and do some side stretches.
  • If all else fails a headstand is guaranteed to give relief; but it is highly detrimental to your finish time!

Prevention of the stitch is the key:

  • Get out and run often – as you get fitter, stitch will be much less of an issue. Include one fast run per week that has you striding out and breathing hard (I have this scheduled for Saturdays in this training book).
  • Run on an empty stomach – that means not eating any solids within about two hours of running and being careful about not drinking too much at a time while running, because the weight of the liquid can cause considerable discomfort (as you get fitter, you will find you have better tolerance of food and liquid while running). The Super Smoothie is worth experimenting with as a quickly digested meal to have a few hours before training and racing.
  • Strengthen your back, chest and abdominals, particularly the transverse and oblique abdominals.
  • Ensure that you have good mobility about the hips; otherwise the strain of striding out can shift from the hips to the low back and abdominals. Do the hip exercise that are illustrated in this ebook.
  • Improve your breathing: Deep, long, slow breaths that are relaxed, rather than shallow and forceful and in a rhythm that fits with your running pace. Breathe through your mouth, rather than your nose when running. The inhalation is quick and full; coming from the lower chest and the breathing out is long and slow through relaxed lips. Keep tall with the ribs lifted, the shoulders relaxed and dropped and the arms relaxed with elbows bent at about right angles.
  • Try to run smoothly with as little bounce as possible and do not slam or over-brake your way downhill; at the same time, avoid over-striding downhill.
  • Power walk as soon as you feel any stitch pain coming on and resume running once it has passed. You will not lose as much time as might be the case if you ignore the warnings and end up bent over in agonising pain.

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