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Painful Side Stitch

by Andrew

I want to join the British army as a soldier and need to build up my fitness. But I have recently gone to a physiotherapist about how often and painful my stitches are. On a good day I can run 3 miles before pain starts on a bad day I can run half a mile. Recently I have run 3k in a 14kph pace in 14 minutes 15 sec and no pain, although I used to run 6 miles a day with my running mate. I am 16.

What do I do, as in how far do I run for starts and how far should I be able to run in a couple of months, how much should I drink, before/during/after as well as eating and any extra information would be great. Also I weigh 10 stone, my height is 5ft7.

It's a lot of info but I have been looking for answers for more than a year and I just want to become a soldier ASAP so I can serve my country and my Queen.


side stitch
Answer by Anissa:
Hi Andy,

Thanks for your questions about wanting to build up your fitness & also regarding the painful side stitches you've been experiencing.

Let's begin with your side stitches.

Every runner has likely experienced these at one time or another and they are no doubt, very painful.

The pain is usually caused by a spasm of the diaphragm muscle as the result of shallow breathing.

But it can also be caused by gas in the intestines or food in the stomach.

Here are some effective ways of dealing with side stitches, which your physiotherapist may have also recommended to you:

Deep breathing: Avoid shallow chest breathing and focus on deep belly breathing while running. Deep belly breathing allows for more oxygen intake which helps prevent side stitches from occurring.

Start slowly: Running at too high of an intensity too soon can cause shallow breathing which in turn will cause the dreaded side stitch. Increase your intensity gradually and always begin your workout with a warm up (5 to 10 minutes of brisk walking or easy running is adequate).

Time your meals: Try to avoid eating the hour before your run. Also avoid sugary, carbonated drinks before running, as they commonly cause side stitches as well.

With regards to building up your fitness for joining the British Army, it's always best to slowly build up over time. Too much, too soon, too intensely (the terrible "too's”) will surely result in an injury or just plain old burn-out.

You're already dealing with painful side stitches as it is, so you don't want to add an injury on top of that. It looks like you've got some good running experience, so I would suggest building on that.

Running at 14kph is a fair speed, but most likely too fast at the current time. Work on your endurance and build up a solid, consistent base running routine. This will be helpful in building on your current fitness level. Consistency is key because it gets your body used to running regularly, it builds up your endurance & will allow you to safely increase your distance and speed when your body is ready for it.

With regards to your eating questions: check out the runner's diet area of this website, which will hopefully provide sufficient information regarding a healthy diet.

Best of luck to you on your wish to join the British Army.

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