HomeRunning Injury Prevention6 Common Causes Unveiled: What Causes Side Aches when Running?

6 Common Causes Unveiled: What Causes Side Aches when Running?

Have you ever felt a sharp pain in your side while running? It’s as if a dagger is piercing through your abdomen, causing you to slow down or even stop.

Well, fear not, for we are here to unveil the six common causes of these side aches.

1. Muscle cramps
2. Poor breathing technique
3. Dehydration
4. Digestive issues
5. Lack of warm-up
6. Incorrect running form

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And even overexertion.

Prepare yourself for a deep dive into the science behind these discomforts.

Key Takeaways

– Muscle fatigue and lack of proper stretching before running can cause side aches.
– Shallow breathing and improper exhaling can lead to discomfort while running.
– Dehydration and digestive issues can contribute to the occurrence of side aches.
– Maintaining correct running form, including stride length and foot strike, can help prevent side aches.

Muscle Cramps

If you don’t stretch properly before your run, you’ll likely experience muscle cramps. Muscle cramps are a common occurrence during exercise and can be quite painful. They are often caused by muscle fatigue, which occurs when your muscles become tired and overworked. When you don’t stretch before running, your muscles are not properly prepared for the activity, leading to increased muscle fatigue and a higher risk of cramping.

Stretching techniques can help prevent muscle cramps by increasing flexibility and reducing muscle tension. Dynamic stretching, which involves moving through a range of motion, is particularly beneficial before running. This type of stretching helps to warm up the muscles and improve their ability to contract and relax. Some examples of dynamic stretching exercises include leg swings, arm circles, and walking lunges.

In addition to dynamic stretching, static stretching can also be beneficial for preventing muscle cramps. This involves holding a stretch for a certain period of time, which helps to improve muscle flexibility and reduce muscle tension. Some static stretching exercises that can be beneficial before running include calf stretches, hamstring stretches, and quad stretches.

Poor Breathing Technique

When it comes to running, your breathing technique plays a crucial role in your overall performance and comfort. Shallow breathing can often result in aches and discomfort, as it limits the amount of oxygen your muscles receive.

Additionally, improper exhaling during running can lead to a buildup of carbon dioxide in your body, causing further discomfort and potentially hindering your performance.

Shallow Breathing Causes Aches

Shallow breathing often causes aches while running. When you don’t take deep, full breaths, your body doesn’t receive enough oxygen to meet the demands of exercise. As a result, your muscles may experience cramping and discomfort. To prevent this, it’s important to focus on proper breathing techniques and maintain a good running posture.

Here are three key considerations to keep in mind:

– Diaphragmatic breathing: Engaging your diaphragm allows for deeper breaths and better oxygen intake. Practice breathing from your belly rather than shallowly from your chest.

– Rhythmic breathing: Coordinate your breathing with your steps to establish a steady rhythm. For example, inhaling for two steps and exhaling for two steps.

– Upright posture: Maintaining an upright posture helps open up your airways, allowing for more efficient breathing.

Improper Exhaling During Running

To improve your breathing efficiency while running, focus on exhaling fully and completely with each breath. Inefficient breathing can lead to side aches and decreased lung capacity, hindering your performance.

When you inhale, your diaphragm and intercostal muscles contract, allowing your lungs to expand and fill with oxygen. However, it is equally important to pay attention to the exhale. By fully emptying your lungs, you create space for a deeper inhale and improve oxygen exchange.

This can be achieved by consciously exhaling through pursed lips or by using a rhythmic pattern such as a 2:2 breath (inhaling for two steps, exhaling for two steps). By focusing on your exhaling technique, you can optimize your breathing efficiency and prevent side aches.

Now, let’s explore another factor that can affect your running performance: dehydration.


If you don’t drink enough water while running, you might experience side aches due to dehydration. Dehydration occurs when your body loses more water than it takes in, leading to an imbalance in fluid levels. When you don’t replenish your body with enough water during physical activity, such as running, it can result in various symptoms that can affect your performance and overall well-being.

Here are three important things to know about dehydration and its prevention:

– Hydration is essential for maintaining proper bodily functions. Water is crucial for regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, and transporting nutrients and oxygen to cells.

– Common symptoms of dehydration include increased thirst, dry mouth, dark yellow urine, fatigue, dizziness, and muscle cramps. It’s important to listen to your body and drink water regularly to prevent these symptoms from occurring.

– To prevent dehydration while running, make sure to drink water before, during, and after your run. The amount of water you need may vary depending on factors such as temperature, intensity, and duration of your run. It’s important to stay hydrated to avoid side aches and other complications.

Proper hydration is crucial not only for preventing side aches but also for maintaining overall health and performance.

Now, let’s explore another potential cause of side aches: digestive issues.

Digestive Issues

When it comes to running and digestive issues, there are two key points to consider: food and cramping, and hydration and discomfort.

The food you consume before a run can greatly impact your digestive system and potentially lead to cramping. It is important to choose easily digestible foods and give yourself enough time to properly digest before hitting the pavement.

Additionally, staying properly hydrated can help prevent discomfort and digestive issues while running. Drink enough water and electrolytes to maintain a balanced hydration status, as dehydration can exacerbate digestive problems.

Food and Cramping

You might experience side aches while running if you eat a large meal right before your workout. When you consume a substantial amount of food before exercise, your body directs blood flow to your digestive system to aid in the digestion process. This can lead to reduced blood flow to your muscles, resulting in cramping or side aches during your run.

To avoid this discomfort, it is recommended to allow sufficient time for digestion before engaging in physical activity. Aim to eat a light, balanced meal at least two to three hours before your workout. Additionally, focusing on the composition of your pre-workout meal can also help. Opt for foods that are easily digestible and provide a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to fuel your performance.

Transitioning into the subsequent section about ‘hydration and discomfort’, proper hydration is also crucial in preventing side aches and enhancing exercise performance.

Hydration and Discomfort

Transitioning into the subsequent section about ‘hydration and discomfort’, proper hydration is also crucial in preventing side aches and enhancing exercise performance. When you are properly hydrated, your body functions optimally, which helps reduce the likelihood of experiencing side aches while running. Adequate hydration ensures that your muscles receive the necessary oxygen and nutrients to function efficiently, reducing the occurrence of discomfort during exercise. Additionally, maintaining proper hydration levels aids in regulating your body temperature, preventing overheating and potential cramping.

To give you a better understanding of the importance of hydration, here is a table summarizing the effects of proper hydration on running performance:

Effect of Proper Hydration on Running Performance
Improved cardiovascular function
Enhanced endurance and stamina
Increased muscle efficiency
Reduced risk of muscle cramps
Improved recovery time after exercise

In addition to proper hydration, it is important to pay attention to your breathing technique while running. Focusing on deep, controlled breaths can help oxygenate your muscles and reduce the strain on your diaphragm, potentially minimizing the occurrence of side aches.

Transitioning into the subsequent section about ‘lack of warm-up’, it is crucial to understand the impact of preparing your body adequately before engaging in physical activity.

Lack of Warm-up

One of the common causes of side aches when running is a lack of warm-up. When you skip the essential step of warming up your body before a run, you increase the likelihood of experiencing side stitches or cramps. A warm-up serves as a preparation for your muscles, joints, and cardiovascular system, helping them gradually adjust to the physical demands of running. Neglecting this crucial step can lead to various issues that can hinder your running performance and cause discomfort.

To understand the impacts of a lack of warm-up, consider the following:

– Lack of stretching: Skipping stretching exercises before a run can result in tight muscles, reducing their flexibility and increasing the risk of muscle strains or pulls.

– Inadequate blood flow: Without a warm-up, your blood vessels don’t dilate as efficiently, leading to reduced blood flow to the working muscles. This can result in decreased oxygen supply and accumulation of waste products, contributing to the development of side aches.

– Poor coordination: A warm-up routine helps improve neuromuscular coordination, allowing your brain and muscles to communicate more effectively. Without this preparation, your body may struggle to maintain proper form and posture, placing additional stress on certain areas and causing discomfort.

Incorrect Running Form

When running with incorrect form, it’s important to address the issue to prevent potential injuries. Proper posture plays a crucial role in running efficiently and reducing the risk of injury. Maintaining a tall and upright posture helps align your body correctly, allowing for optimal muscle function and reducing strain on joints. Your head should be aligned with your spine, and your shoulders should be relaxed, not hunched forward. Engaging your core muscles also helps maintain stability and balance while running.

Additionally, wearing appropriate running shoes is essential for correct form and injury prevention. Running shoes provide cushioning and support, helping to absorb shock and reduce impact on your joints. They also provide stability, especially if you have pronation or supination issues. It’s important to choose shoes that are suitable for your foot type and running style.


By pushing yourself too hard without allowing for proper recovery, you’re putting yourself at risk for overexertion and potential harm to your body. Overexertion occurs when you exceed your body’s capacity to handle physical stress, leading to muscle strain and fatigue. It is essential to understand the importance of managing fatigue to prevent these issues and optimize your performance.

To effectively manage fatigue, consider the following:

Proper training progression: Gradually increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of your workouts to allow your body to adapt and build endurance. This progressive approach reduces the risk of overexertion and muscle strain.

Rest and recovery: Incorporate rest days into your training schedule to give your muscles time to repair and rebuild. Adequate sleep, hydration, and nutrition are also crucial for recovery and fatigue management.

Listen to your body: Pay attention to warning signs such as persistent muscle soreness, decreased performance, or excessive fatigue. These are indicators that you may be pushing yourself too hard and need to adjust your training or take a break.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Prevent Muscle Cramps While Running?

To prevent muscle cramps while running, make sure to stay properly hydrated. Dehydration can increase the risk of cramps. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your run to keep your muscles functioning optimally.

What Are Some Tips for Improving My Breathing Technique During a Run?

To maintain a steady pace during your run, focus on proper pacing. Use techniques like rhythmic breathing and visualization to stay mentally focused and relaxed.

How Much Water Should I Drink to Avoid Dehydration While Running?

To avoid dehydration while running, it’s important to drink enough water. Did you know that on average, runners should aim to drink about 4-6 ounces of water every 20 minutes? This helps prevent signs of dehydration and keeps you hydrated throughout your run.

What Can I Do to Prevent Digestive Issues During a Run?

To prevent digestive issues during your run, there are a few strategies you can employ. Stay hydrated, but avoid overdrinking. Eat a light meal before running and give yourself enough time to digest. Avoid foods that can cause bloating and acid reflux.

Are There Any Specific Warm-Up Exercises Recommended to Prevent Side Aches While Running?

To prevent side aches while running, it’s important to incorporate a proper warm-up routine. Include stretching exercises that target your abdominal and side muscles. This can help prevent cramps and discomfort during your run.

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
Meet the NeedToRace editorial team: A passionate group of running enthusiasts dedicated to crafting the ultimate running guide for you.
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