Cramping my Style

There must be some sort of invisible force that ruins my runs on Tuesdays. Either I am out with River, and she freaks out upon seeing a deer or gets sick, or I get sick and run at the pace of snail.

Last week, the heat and humidity sucked all my energy. This week, I was hit with horrible side cramps about halfway through my 4.5 mile run, slowing my pace by like 1:30 per mile. I even stopped to try to get them to go away! I try as hard as I can to avoid stopping when I am running – it always makes me feel like my run “counts” less (even though I know it doesn’t) so the fact that I stopped should really show how bad these cramps were! I also started to feel kind of lightheaded and woozy, probably because I was pushing myself despite the cramp pain.

Whenever I get side cramps, they are always EXACTLY the same. I have a small, concentrated pain right below my rib about halfway between my belly button and the very edge of my body. It gets better if I stop to walk or push on it while flexing the muscle (usually accomplished by breathing deeply so that my diaphragm moves and pushes against it). They occur more often when I am cold.

These cramps really baffle me. From what I understand, there are a two main reasons for side cramps:

  • Improper nutrition/hydration (not enough or too much)
  • Shallow breathing

I really can’t seem to pinpoint what I am doing here that causes the cramps, though. I usually drink about 8 oz of water before heading out to run and I never run on a full stomach (and rarely on an empty one). Drinking water (like 1 oz at a time) while running does not seem to make the cramps worse, either. I know I said that breathing deeply seems to help, so it *could* be shallow breathing, but I feel like deep breathing helps more because of the muscle movement than because I am actually getting more oxygen in my body (like it loosens the cramped muscle). So mostly I’m just confused and frustrated. I even asked a doctor about it once, and he said just to make sure I warmed up more (though it usually happens later in my runs, when I should be warmed up, even if it is chilly out).

I have one weird potential explanation left: my loose skin. I have probably my largest amount of it chilling out right around my belly button. My (admittedly far-fetched) theory is that the jostling of it pulls on my stomach and make the underlying muscle cramp up. This theory stems from the pain I feel in my thighs from my skin bouncing around – there is loose skin all over my thighs, though, so the pain is more diffuse (I only really have one spot of VERY loose skin on my tummy).  I know I should just buy some compression wear and see if that helps, but I can’t seem to like compression wear. Like, I tried on these leggings the other day and I hated that I had trouble getting my foot through them. Then I felt all constricted. How am I supposed to run feeling all constricted?

I’ve also noticed this year as the weather cools that I am getting drier skin and chapped lips. I don’t seem to recall these problems last fall! I like the cool weather (it makes me feel much faster!) but I am finding new annoyances with it, I guess.

Any recommendations on side cramps or compression wear would be appreciated 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Cramping my Style

  1. Breathe as evenly as possible. Drink water before you go for your run. More importantly, do not run too fast too far too soon. I’ve not scientific research for my advice, but these have worked for me. I hate side cramps (any cramp of any sort).

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