Ask the Coach: Side stitches

Q. After running for two miles, I always get a side stitch. I try breathing deeply and putting pressure on my side. This never used to happen to me but now it happens all the time.

What could be causing this? FYI, I eat an hour-and-a-half before my run. What can I do to prevent this from happening?

A. There's a theory that a full stomach will "pull" on your diaphragm and give you a side stitch. So, some of your problem "might" be related to eating a meal within an hour-and-a-half of running.

More theories for what cause side stitches include other organs (such as the liver) pulling on your diaphragm, shallow breathing and always breathing when one particular foot (most often the right foot) strikes the ground while running. Interestingly, some athletes never have a problem, while others do.

To prevent side stitches try:

  • eating a small snack, doing your run, then eat another snack or your meal.
  • taking slightly larger breaths and fill more of your lungs instead of taking smaller, shallow breaths.
  • noticing if you always breathe when your right foot strikes the ground. If so, try changing to breathe when your left foot strikes the ground.

Do you have a specific training or sport related question? Have world-renowned coach Gale Bernhardt answer it! Send your questions to

Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic Coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

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