Thwarted by a stitch! And stretching questions - Couch to 5K

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Thwarted by a stitch! And stretching questions


I attempted W5R1 yesterday afternoon, but for the first time doing this program, I got a very painful stitch and had to stop on the last 5 minute stretch. I tried to make up the running time, but every time I tried the stitch came back. I am thinking that maybe it was because it was an afternoon run, when usually I run in the morning before I eat anything? Although it had been a few hours since I had eaten, so I am not sure. I tried again this morning and managed to complete the whole run with no issues.....

Does anyone have any tips for avoiding/getting rid of stitches?

And on another note, when/how much should I be stretching? At the moment I usually start to get tight muscles during my first running interval, so I use part of the next walking interval to stretch hammies and calves, but I am not sure if that is best?

11 Replies

To clear a stitch, slow down and breathe deeply. Laura gives this advice in one of the podcasts and it has worked for me.

To avoid getting it in the first place, leave a good gap between eating and running, as you did, but if you drink while running then sip, don't gulp.


As our friend IannodaTruffe suggests... slow down and do deep breathing. I had stitch just once, during C25K and listened to Laura's advice, it worked. I always gave two sips of water before I head out too :)

Stretching..? You will get plenty of good advice I know... I do not stretch specifically before a run... but by the time I have faffed around ready to go out, my legs are usually well warmed up! Make sure your legs are warm before heading out. My leggings are on a radiator waiting for me... before the cold runs of the Season :)

Walk briskly, loosen those shoulders and arms... relax your legs, even whilst walking, light and steady steps. Then on the run.. again, slow and steady but light steps, lift your feet in a cycling motion, as Laura often suggests.

Well done anyway... persevere and let us know how you fare? :)

motherducklingGraduate in reply to Oldfloss

Thanks for the advice! When you say to slow down, do you meant to a walk, or keep jogging? (I am not going particularly fast just yet, so probably couldnt go much slower!) I will definitely try the deep breathing if it happens again though :)

And I live in regional Australia, so its definitely not hard to keep warm, especially coming into summer! But will keep it in mind for winter (because I will hopefully still be running then!)

I havent actually been following the podcasty things because I dont take anything but my dog and front door key when I run, so havent had the pleasure of 'meeting' Laura yet :) But she sounds pretty helpful.

DavodaGraduate in reply to motherduckling

"Keep jogging or slow down to a walk?"

Keep jogging, even if it feels like dead slow & stop! I only had one & slowing down eased it off.


Right :) Lovely and warm then.. a chilly 4 degrees here, for my run.. and damp and misty... :(

But, we embrace it all :)

Try the podcasts.. Laura is really helpful and she really keeps you on track... :) They are very worth following.

On the slower bit.. well, just, as she says. no one should know, if they were on the opposite side of a hedge.. that you were running... no bouncing etc.. so very, very steady pace.

It is possible to get a very. very gentle slow pace, without actually walking...believe me.. I know :)


I stop completely. Bend down slowly and touch my toes, then rise slowly and reach for the sky holding both arms aloft, and stretch a little bit, keeping both feet on the ground. Still with arms aloft you lean over on the side of the stitch, a bit like a ballerina 😊, and repeat on the other side. If the stitch doesn't go immediately you can run with arms aloft tor a bit. It might be sufficient just to stop and touch the toes ☺

I do a short cardio routine indoors before heading out for the warm up walk. Stretch after the cool down walk.


I usually stretch after my run. But I do like Wobble's balletic approach to a stitch. I have not yet suffered with one, but I almost feel that I want to do this exercise . . . just because! Can you possible download the podcasts and listen to Laura? She is very helpful and you learn a great deal about technique and things from her as you go. Good luck with the rest of the running programme down under! :)


For stiches to avoid getting them, I got into the habit of breathing with my belly and breath in three strides, breath out two etc. So you always expire air on alternating foot if you know what I mean?

Belly breathing forces you to breath very deeply - I do that during my warm up walk and during the whole running time - I ran 40 minutes yesterday with virtually no stiches :)


You need Laura. That way you can forget timing, she'll do all that for you, and you can stay loose.

As others have suggested, by slowing your pace a little throughout the duration of your run, ensuring that it matches current level of fitness, you should hopefully find that stitches don’t continue to trouble you in the latter stages.

When the body begins to fatigue, a tendency exists to lift the shoulders towards the ears, creating tension in the muscles of the upper torso, including those muscles that assist in allowing the diaphragm to expand and relax, as it too is also lifted upwards.

Through misalignment, the lungs aren’t able to inhale as fully as they would normally, so you compensate by attempting to breathe harder and faster (which soon begins to hurt), as you seek to ensure the continual delivery of oxygen to working muscles.

If you happen to become aware of tightening in the upper back/shoulders, simply stop and walk, rolling the head and shoulders, while concentrating upon inhaling slowly and deeply through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.

However, there are things you can do, in the earlier stages of your run to help minimise the risk of raising the shoulders, allowing runs to be completed strongly, such as shortening the length of your stride (no over-striding) and running a negative split (completing the first half at slower pace than the second).

Concerning conditioning before-hand, introduce on the spot jogging (aiming to lift the heels as high to the derriere as possible) and movements such as side lateral jumps, in addition to considering a few minutes of moderately paced skipping (who doesn’t love a skipping rope?), to raise exercising heart rate and prime the muscles for exercise.

Moreover, performing some of the above should hopefully assist in allowing breathing to regulate far sooner into your run, since the body’s anaerobic energy pathway will have already been exercised during your warm up.

Since you’re running in Oz, time of day will certainly affect performance, since heat is a major factor in the rate at which the body reaches fatigue, regardless of fitness level or how well hydrated the body is both before and during the activity.

As such, stick to running earlier in the morning when it’s likely to be cooler.

If you wish to stretch before running, seek to adopt a dynamic stretching routine, as opposed to a static routine, saving static stretches for once you’ve completed your run.

I could attempt to describe dynamic stretches, but you’ll gain more from watching examples on YouTube, etc.

Thanks for all your replies guys! I will look into downloading the podcasts.... but how do you carry your phone while running without it being annoying?? And I think I will try the dynamic stretching before running, I think that sounds like the best option at the moment :)

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