eli5: why are side cramps so common when walking / running at high speeds or long distances?

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eli5: why are side cramps so common when walking / running at high speeds or long distances?

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3 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

3 reasons:

1. The muscles that control breathing (diaphragm and accessory muscles) are in the sides of your chest and abdomen and are working hard from breathing rapidly due to exertion.

2. Lactic acid builds up in the muscle tissues during exercise causing burning/cramping sensation.

3. Electrolyte imbalances caused by sweating out salts can cause cramping.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Ideally, most of your breathing comes from your diaphragm moving down.

However, if the athlete doesn’t have good diaphragmatic breathing, it’s very typical for for them to go into “overload” breathing in which the upper torso and neck muscles are used to expand the chest. And the same thing happen when running fast, as the maximal amount of oxygen is needed.

If those muscles are overtaxed, that can lead to side cramps or other issues.

Anonymous 0 Comments

In fact, this is a widespread problem since more than 60% of runners annually experience side cramps. Several reasons:

1. Reduced blood flow to the diaphragm
2. Irritation of the supporting ligaments to the abdominal organs.

In general, running increases the pressure and contraction of the abdominal muscles, while shallow breathing leads to a diaphragm contraction.

But here is how you can prevent it: do a gentle stretch before training or drink a good amount of water. This should be enough.