A two-step plan for taking the pain in stride
By Scott Sutherland
The cause of the infamous side cramp may be obscure, but the remedy is painfully simple. "When you feel one coming on, slow down your breathing and make it more rhythmic," suggests David Brennan, an exercise physiologist and founder of the Houston International Running Center, the sometime training spot of Olympians Carl Lewis and Sean Wade. Specifically, concentrate on synchronizing forceful exhalations with your footfalls — if the stitch is on your right side, breathe out as your left foot hits the ground, and vice versa. This approach, Brennan has found, empties your lungs more fully, allowing you then to fill them up with more air and get more oxygen flowing through the body to your muscles. You'll find you can dispense with the discomfort in under five minutes, and thus get back to working on doing the same to your mile time.
Illustration by Mick Aaerstrup