Categorized as: Running

Preventing Side Stitches

Did you know that side stitches are the most common complaint among runners? If you have ever experienced one, you know that they can be painful. So what causes them?

The proposed cause of side stitches: When running, there is increased abdominal pressure pushing up on the diaphragm. At the same time, rapid breathing causes the lungs to expand and this presses down on the diaphragm – a muscle that if “pinched” from above and below, gets less blood flow and spasms thus resulting in painful side stitches.

The good news is that as the body adapts to training, breathing becomes less labored and if this is the cause of the side stitch, the stitches will go away as the runner gets more accustomed to the distance.

If experienced runners get side stitches, possible explanations include: the pre-race or workout meal was too fatty, too close to the event and it fills the stomach and pulls down on the diaphragm causing it to spasm.

So what do you do when you get a side stitch? Treatment is simple – stop running and take long, slow deep breaths. Try stretching. Extend both arms to the sky and bend at the waist to each side. This should relieve the spasm and off you go!

Prevention is key. Be mindful of what you eat before an event and as your endurance gets better, you should experience fewer side stitches.

Article adapted by Lewis G Maharam, MD, FACSM

Keep Your Head in the Game

Some lucky runners will go their entire running lives without a misstep, but many more will face an injury that requires the ultimate sacrifice – no running. No runner welcomes that prescription, but those that grin and bear it generally fare better than those who do not. This is not to say you shouldn’t get upset, because it is completely normal to be disappointed, but do not let it get the best of you.

Research shows that people battling sports injuries tend to have slower or less satisfactory recoveries when they are depressed or distressed. The exact reasons are not understood, but it is suggested that athletes with better outlooks adhere to rehab better. Other studies suggest that depressed moods may generate an immune response that compromises recovery from injury.

Coping Mechanisms:

Perspective – You can adopt a defeatist attitude, or you can ask yourself, “What can I do to get optimal healing?” It’s all about your perspective. Think about things that are purposeful, productive, and focused on possibilities.

Rather than say…”Rehab takes forever. I’m never going to get out running again.” Say…”If I focus on my physical-therapy exercises right now, I can speed my recovery.”
Rather than say…”Why me? What if I never run again? Say…”This injury can teach me to incorporate better recovery habits into my training plan so that I’ll be less likely to get injured again.”
Rather than say…”I’ll never get back to the fitness I had before my injury.” Say…If I use my rehab as an opportunity to develop some new strengths, I’ll come back even stronger.”

Injury Assessment – Get a clear understanding of what your injury is and what rehab entails, and ask about the best-case and worst-case scenarios. Not knowing what to expect can bring about anxiety and can cause you to lose focus during the recovery process.

Positive Behavior – Studies have shown that “psychological intervention” (distracting yourself with positive behavior) such as goal setting can speed recovery. Aim for realistic targets such as increasing your flexibility, getting more sleep, eating healthier, drinking less alcohol, etc. These little victories help you stay positive on the road to recovery.

Don’t let an injury get the best of you. Reflect on what may have caused it, develop a recovery plan and remain positive.  It’s all about your perspective.

Reference: Article adapted by Runner’s World, A Healing Head.

I’m Injured, Now What???


In the course of training for events such as marathons and triathlons, injuries of various natures are bound to occur.  The question often asked is, “Should I continue my training?”  The answer is not simple.

Step 1: Self Evaluation

Perform a self-evaluation to determine the cause of the injury.  Was it an overuse injury (training too hard and/or too much)? Was it an impact or fall causing a sprain or strain? A pulled muscle?

Once you have determined the source of the injury, determine the severity.  Does it hurt all the time? Or, does it slowly manifest itself during training (possible overuse injury)? Is it limited to a particular limb or joint, or is it something more debilitating (resulting from a fall)?

Step 2: Seek Professional Help

If it is an overuse injury, visit a masseuse, neuromuscular therapist, or chiropractor. Additionally, seek the advice of a coach or trainer who has experience in the field.  If it is a sprain or break, what does your doctor advise?

Step 3: Develop a Recovery Plan

Most injuries heal themselves with time and rest.  Often times, you can speed the process with stretching and ice or heat, aided with over the counter anti-inflammatory medication.

How close is the event for which you are training?  Often we can get frenzied about this timeline, but in most cases taking 1-2 weeks off from training will not affect your current fitness level. You can take time off and still be OK for your big day.

As you re-introduce training, remind yourself that you were just injured.  A conservative approach of slowly adding in workouts will go much farther than jumping back in as if nothing happened, regardless of how good you feel.  Rule of thumb: The amount of time out is the amount of time you should give yourself to re-acclimate to training. For example, if you were out one week, give yourself a minimum of one week to re-adjust.

The Big Picture

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we are forced to sit out events that we may have paid for in advance.  This is both unfortunate and frustrating. It’s tough to make the decision NOT to race, but it’s the best regarding your health and well-being. The big picture is your long term health and well-being – far more important than participating in an event when you are at a fraction of your best and risking further injury.

Patience and Planning for the Long Run

by Jeff Soileau, V.P. + Training Coordinator of Alamo 180

As our big race approaches and your training mileage gets longer and longer, it is important to remember a few simple tips to make the long runs and race day more manageable.


Imagine preparing for a cross country trip in your car. You make sure your car is in great working order, your tires are properly inflated, your oil changed, and your antifreeze/coolant replaced.  But wait! You forgot to put gas in the tank! Guess you won’t be going too far after all… The same goes for your body.  You do your maintenance runs during the week. You take care of your shoes. You wear proper apparel.  Don’t forget to eat!  It can be catastrophic to go into a long weekend run without “gas in the tank.” It doesn’t have to be much either; wheat toast or a bagel with peanut butter, a bowl of oatmeal, or a scrambled egg with some juice.  Heck, even a donut is better than nothing!  Every athlete is different as to what they can tolerate, so start experimenting now to find what works best for you. The morning of your big race is the wrong time to change or start a new morning meal.  It is also important that you refuel during your run.  This can be accomplished with various gels and supplements, but most professionals agree that refueling is necessary in workouts exceeding 1.25 hours and should be ingested every 45 minutes to maintain peak performance.


As an athlete exercises, the body’s core temperature rises.  The body responds to this increase in heat with a ‘unique-to-mammals’ cooling system: perspiration. As the body perspires to regulate temperature, water and electrolytes are released onto the skin. As the water evaporates, the body cools itself; at a cost.  Under extreme conditions like heat, humidity and prolonged physical activity, (marathon training in south Texas, anyone?) sweating causes the body to lose water and electrolytes, so it is important to hydrate during exercise.  Humans are uniquely developed for endurance events in that they can drink and eat while moving, so plan on taking some water with you.  Some good advice is to hydrate early and often, and to mix water with electrolyte replacement, as water alone will not be enough.  Hydrating early also refers to the day or days leading up to your big event.  Some things to limit or avoid are caffeine and alcohol, as they are diuretics, which can cause the body to excrete water (makes you pee).


It is easy to run fast for short distances, however, many athletes have difficulty with runs in excess of 5-6 miles. This is where having a plan comes in handy.  Plan to use short, walking intervals to help conserve energy and to recover.  An example would be to plan to run for 5 minutes, walk for 1 minute.  Do this the entire duration of your run.  It doesn’t have to be exactly this formula, so work on what works for you.  You can plan your walking recoveries based on water stops, time, or distance covered.

Also be aware that pacing is often affected by things that are out of our control, like heat and humidity. It is suggested by Olympian and coach Jeff Galloway, that for every 10 degrees above 60, a runner’s pace may be affected by a much as 30 seconds. So based on typical temperatures in south Texas during the summer and early fall, (averaging 100 degrees!) a runner’s pace could be slowed by approximately 2 minutes per mile!

All of these things combine to make for harsh training and racing conditions, however, practicing in these conditions will help prepare for racing under the same conditions.  Start experimenting with different fueling, hydration and pacing methods, so that when your big day arrives, you will feel confident in your abilities and will have a great marathon or 1/2 marathon race experience!

Marathon Training Program

Alamo 180 Marathon Training Program

Program Start Date: June 18th  2011      

San Antonio Rock N Roll Marathon & 1/2 Marathon

Unlike most fitness activities, training for a marathon and 1/2 marathon is serious business. Fail to train properly, and you not only risk not finishing the race, you also risk seriously injuring yourself. The marathon is not a race you decide to do a few weeks before the event. It is something you train and prepare for over a several month period. But, that doesn’t mean that training for a marathon shouldn’t be fun – because it is!

The biggest question most beginner, and many experience marathoners have is: “How long should my training runs be and how many times per week should I run?”

The answer, of course, varies for the individual person and their goals, but there are some general rules and suggestions to follow. While an elite marathoner might run two workouts per day and over 100 miles per week while training for a marathon, the body of most mortals could not take such pounding (and who can find that time anyway?). The important components in a marathon training program for most people are these:

  • Gradually increase the overall weekly distance until two to three weeks before the marathon.
  • Include two long runs spread across the week, one midweek, the other on the weekend.
  • Include one day of faster running and/or integrate strides into your regular runs.
  • Try to run six days per week.
  • The runs between your long runs do not need to be any longer than 3-6 miles.

The point is this: Your body won’t get used to running long distances, unless it has run those distances on a regular basis. So you need to make your run workouts a priority and stay focused. More importantly, the body needs rest between those runs, which is why we suggest no more than two long runs per week and moderate distance on the other days. Our philosophy is “hard day/easy day/hard day/easy day/etc…” At the beginning of your training program, those long runs could be 6 miles each. Then, as the weeks go by, gradually increase them. Perhaps week two would see the long runs as 6 & 8 miles, week three 7 & 9, week four: 7 & 10, etc.  At this point you have built an good, strong base of miles and your body will be prepared for the marathon event. You can even through in some strength workouts in the form of Boot Camp or weight training at your local gym to build additional muscular endurance. It’s all about patience, hard work and determination. Grab a partner and enjoy the marathon journey!