Fit Facts: Beating Side Stitches, Stretching IT Bands, Breathing Easier

Beat Side Stitches

A "thorn in the side" for many runners, a side stitch is commonly a cramp of the diaphragm muscle resulting in a piercing pain on either side of the lower ribcage. A side stitch may also be caused by gas in the intestines, food in the stomach or dehydration.

"Learning to breathe with the diaphragm and strengthening the abdominals can help prevent stitches," says Tim Mickleborough, Ph.D., professor of kinesiology at the University of Indiana.

Deep breathing through the belly and forceful exhalations can help stretch out the diaphragm muscle, alleviating spasms. If you experience a side stitch, try massaging the area of pain to stretch the muscle, or decrease your intensity until the stitch subsides. Also, drink up to keep the muscles of the diaphragm hydrated.

Standing leg stretch

Try This: Standing Leg Stretch

Runners know the dangers of tight iliotibial (IT) bands, but all athletes will benefit from stretching this muscle on the outer thigh. To protect yourself from hip, knee and other injuries: Stand about a foot away from a wall and put your left arm on the wall. Cross your right leg over your left.

Then, bend your arm so your forearm touches the wall, and bend your right knee, dropping your left hip toward the wall. Hold 15 to 30 seconds. Perform the stretch two more times. Switch sides and repeat.

Breathe Easier in the Afternoon

It's an age-old debate--are you better off exercising in the morning or later in the day? A study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians finds that lung capacity is at its highest later in the afternoon. Researchers say lung function has a natural circadian rhythm that peaks late in the day, and is lowest around noon.

"We often associate the end of the workday with being tired and less motivated for physical exertion. However, lung function seems to be at its best during this time," says Boris I. Medarov, M.D., lead researcher on the study.

"As a result, exercising or engaging in other physical activities in the late afternoon may help us to achieve optimal performance."

Keep in mind, though, the best time to exercise is the one you're most likely to stick with.

Un-Thai Your Knots

Who doesn't love a good massage? Now you have an excuse to treat yourself more often. The thousands-year-old practice of Thai Massage is sweeping major metropolitan areas as a way to keep your body aligned and your muscles in check.

Meant more to "energize" and balance than merely to relax, Thai Massage has been dubbed the "lazy person's yoga" by some, since practitioners manipulate you into postures to provide the same body aligning effects as yoga.

While you should feel relaxed afterward, don't expect Enya and incense. During Thai Massage you're comfortably clothed in a baggy T-shirt and sweats, and lying on a large body cushion while being tugged and rubbed.

Try it post workout, or on a day when you need a break from your favorite yoga or Pilates class. Sessions last one to two hours and range from $95 to $200. Find a practitioner at

Heidi Kelchner is managing editor of Her Sports.

Discuss This Article