The Best Pumpkin Muffins – Perfect For Fall

I don’t remember why I bought a tub of light whipped cream cheese a couple of weeks ago, but I did, because I noticed it in the back of my refrigerator two days ago. Seeing that the expiration date was just days from now, and determined not to let it go to waste, I got busy scouring the internet for some cream cheese recipes. I settled on a pumpkin cream cheese muffin recipe, but modified it to suit my personal preferences. The end result was a light and slightly nutty-tasting gluten-free muffin that tasted sooooo good! This one is a keeper and I’ve already been asked to make more.

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Recipe Source: Modified version of Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins – Low Carb and Gluten-Free (Alldayidreamaboutfood.com)

Ingredients

3/4 cup pumpkin puree; 3 cups almond flour; 1/3 cup vanilla protein powder; 2 tsp baking powder; 1/2 tsp baking soda; 1/2 tsp salt; 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon; 1/2 tsp ground ginger; 1/4 tsp cloves; 4 oz. apple sauce; 1/3 cup clover honey; 2 eggs; 1/2 tsp vanilla extract; 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk; 4 oz. whipped cream cheese; handful of pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a muffin tray with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, protein powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a large bowl, blend together the apple sauce and honey, then add the pumpkin puree, eggs, and vanilla extract.

Beat the flour mixture into the wet mixture in two additions, alternating with almond milk. Mix well, and then drop spoonfuls of the batter into the muffin tray. When each well has been filled, drop a dollop of cream cheese into the center of each muffin and push down. Sprinkle pepitas over the top of each.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes. Allow to cool, then enjoy with your favorite hot beverage.

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3-Day Detox Recipes

The recipes below are from Lyn-Genet’s 3-Day Detox: click here for more information:

Flax Granola Recipe

1 cup whole flaxseeds, 1/2 cup water, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves to taste, pure vanilla, extract, raisins, cranberries, sunflower seeds to taste.

Soak flax overnight in the fridge in water with cinnamon. Spread in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake at 275 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. Add raisins and nuts or seeds of choice for last 10 minutes of baking.

Carrot-Ginger Soup Recipe

1.5 lbs. carrots, 1 zucchini, 1 onion, 1 liter water, 3 cloves garlic, raw ginger, cinnamon, cumin and black pepper to taste.

Chop vegetables and simmer with spices in water until soft. Add vegetables to blender with half of soup stock and blend.

Spicy Coco Sauce Recipe

1 can full-fat coconut milk, 1 large onion, chopped 4 cloves garlic, chopped ginger, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, cayenne to taste, 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Sauté onion, garlic and spices in coconut milk. Add salt. Simmer for 20 minutes. Sauce will keep for five days or longer in freezer.

Cream of Broccoli Soup Recipe

3 Tbsp. butter,1/2 medium to large onion, chopped, 1/2 tsp. celery seed,2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 can full-fat coconut milk, 4 cups broccoli, chopped (about two heads of broccoli), 4 cups zucchini, chopped (about two medium zucchini), 1 small avocado, 1 Tbsp. chipotle in adobo sauce, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, black pepper to taste

Sauté onion and spices in butter. Add broth, water and coconut milk, along with broccoli and zucchini, and cook until vegetables are tender. Add avocado. Blend and serve.

 

A Mini Detox That Doesn’t Deprive You – My Kind of Detox!

Jannine Myers

About this time last year I was starting to feel a little sluggish and void of energy. So when the opportunity arose to participate with several others in a 21-day-sugar-free detox, I jumped on board. I learned a lot through that detox experience, and while I definitely reaped some benefits, I also knew that if I did another detox I would be very selective in choosing which one.

Well it’s been a year, and not surprisingly my body recently started to feel the familiar effects of an over-worked digestive system. One of the reasons a detox cleanse can be good for the body, is because our bodies accumulate impurities which over time, result in a reduced quality of health. Eliminating processed and highly refined foods for a period of days or weeks can help the body to rid itself of toxins (which leads to more energy), and allow the digestive system to focus more on repairing and healing of the body.

Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman, author of The Fast Track Detox Diet, says you should be able to recognize when your body is in need of a gentle cleanse – she says that some (not all) of the signs to look for include: poor elimination, sinus congestion, coughing, fatigue, trouble sleeping, skin problems, cravings for sugar or rich foods, and anxiety. I think for me, fatigue and sugar cravings may have been key indicators, as well as frequent bloating.

Choosing the right detox was something I needed to do a little research on, as I wanted it to be a detox which would provide relatively good results within the shortest amount of time. I also wanted to find a detox cleanse which allowed for enough calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat to adequately support my training efforts, although I did modify my workouts by making slight reductions to both the intensity and duration of my runs.

The following is a full report of the detox cleanse I chose for myself and some of my clients:

The Lyn-Genet Plan: Summer 3-Day Detox – click here for the 3-day menu and here for the recipes. [Note: On day three, the last meal calls for “orange oil” – we used a little olive oil and orange zest]

What I liked about this detox:

  1. It’s short! I am not a fan of deprivation, which is why I will probably never be able to follow any type of exclusive diet (eg. GF, paleo, vegan, vegetarian etc), unless it becomes obvious that my body is sensitive to a certain food or groups of foods. I do however, tend to favor mostly gluten-free and vegan meals, but on those days that I feel like eating steak or bread for example, then I’m going to eat steak or bread! Since a detox cleanse does involve deprivation by excluding certain foods and beverages, I was grateful that this particular cleanse was a short one.
  2. The meals were reasonably filling and tasty, something you definitely won’t find in many detox cleanses. Admittedly, we ate a ton of vegetables but the recipes called for lots of flavorful spices so none of the meals tasted bland.
  3. The average daily calorie intake was around 1800 – not quite as much as what I typically eat but enough to not leave me feeling starved (I will confess though that there were a few occasions where I couldn’t wait for the next meal and had to go back for more of whatever I had eaten earlier). The fruits and vegetables provided enough energy to help me push through on my workouts, and the diet allowed for a significant amount of nuts and seeds to ensure an adequate protein intake. I also liked that the diet had a build-on effect, where new foods were slowly added.

What I didn’t like about this detox:

  1. A good amount of preparation was required to ensure successful completion of the plan. The daily breakfast for example, was a flax cereal which needed to be baked ahead of time, and several of the meals were soups which took a little bit of time to make. Also, since most of the main meals included various types of vegetables, a certain amount of time had to be spent on cleaning and cutting the vegetables. It wasn’t too time-consuming, but it’s best to be aware that some time and effort is needed if you decide to try this detox.
  2. I thought the cost of the detox (mostly due to the large amount of fresh produce) was a little bit expensive, considering I can feed my family of four for much less, and the meals in this detox would feed probably two people at the most (not complaining though – I’d do it again).

Detox symptoms experienced:

  1. Day one went well for me; no noticeable side effects.
  2. Day two resulted in some minor nausea, heavy bloating, and a slight decrease in energy. I also noticed that my eyes were starting to look a little bloodshot.
  3. Day three was the worst. I woke up feeling extremely bloated, and I had a headache and nausea. My eyes were noticeably bloodshot by this time, and after I got back from my morning run I noticed that I had broken out in hives.
  4. Since the detox ended, my symptoms have gradually begun to disappear and I can honestly say that I do feel better (lighter, more energy, sleeping well).

Things I learned:

  1. I discovered that I don’t need to eat as much as I usually do. The food I ate on the detox diet was so nutrient-dense that I realized I could go for much longer periods of time without feeling the need to eat. I also typically crave sweets in the evening, after my dinner meal, but those cravings were greatly diminished during the detox.
  2. I had a glass of red wine two nights after completing the detox and my body reacted immediately! I felt extremely intoxicated and even felt hungover the next morning. Given that I regularly drink a glass of red wine in the evenings, I was so shocked that my body responded the way it did. Not sure though if that’s something I was happy to learn….I enjoy my glass of red wine!
  3. Detox diets help to identify foods that cause negative reactions. Lyn-Genet says that many of the foods that we eat, which we think are good for us, actually cause an inflammatory reaction in the body, so cutting these foods out for a few days and then reintroducing them one at a time can help us to see which ones we react negatively to.
  4. Next time I’ll be a little more mindful of what I eat in the days immediately after the detox. I had a few social events to attend in the days after the detox and I indulged myself – not the smartest idea (just trust me on this!).

Would I recommend this detox diet?

Yes, absolutely! Especially to other athletes who are looking for more of a short-term and less restrictive cleanse.

Final thoughts and tips:

  1. Try to strictly adhere to the detox as much as possible, and try to avoid substituting other ingredients. The ingredients in this detox have been specifically selected for their anti-inflammatory effects.
  2. Any cleanse is best supported by good hydration habits. Lyn-Genet recommends drinking plenty of water, and she says that a good rule of thumb is to take your body weight, divide it in half and that is how many oz. you should drink.
  3. Be very careful how you proceed with your diet once you come off the detox! Gittleman advises keeping it simple with easy-to-digest foods, keeping it light (small meals), and taking your time to chew your food.
Flax cereal with dried fruits, nuts, and seeds, and rice milk

Flax cereal with dried fruits, nuts, and seeds, and rice milk

One of the lunch meals: mixed greens salad with pear, broccoli and pumpkin seeds, and a carrot-ginger soup with sunflower seeds

One of the lunch meals: mixed greens salad with pear, broccoli and pumpkin seeds, and a carrot-ginger soup with sunflower seeds

 

Another lunch meal: mixed greens salad with pear, avocado, and pumpkin seeds, and a spicy broccoli soup

Another lunch meal: mixed greens salad with pear, avocado, and pumpkin seeds, and a spicy broccoli soup

 

Gluten-free “Trail Mix” Granola Bars

Jannine Myers

Last weekend WOOT hosted it’s second organized trail hike and knowing how hungry everyone would be at the end of it, we suggested a potluck gathering to end the event. Things didn’t quite work out the way we planned (we’ll get it right next time), in that the group split and parted ways and by the time our group made it back to the cars, the others were well gone. That didn’t mean though that those of us who came in late were not hungry; we were starving! And that’s where these home-made granola bars came to the rescue.

I called these “trail mix” granola bars because they really are like a solidified form of trail mix. Perfect for providing energy during or after a long trail hike, or just for pure enjoyment – these are good! My large rectangle tupperware, filled with the bars, came home empty; even the kids enjoyed them and went for seconds. Try this one – you won’t regret it. And store half in the freezer if you think you might eat them all at once!

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Right out of the oven, before I cut them up.

Ingredients

1/4 cup almond meal, 2 tbsps pumpkin seeds, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1 cup pecans, 1 cup almonds, 1 cup dried apricots cut into chunks, 1/4 cup certified gluten-free oats, 1/2 cup dark chocolate bits, 1/3 cup honey (or less, if you prefer it not so sweet), 1 large egg, 1 tbsp melted coconut oil, 1 tsp gluten-free vanilla extract (or regular if you can’t find gluten-free and are not overly sensitive to gluten)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease a 9 inch square baking pan.
  2. Place the almond meal, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl and mix.
  3. Add the pecans, almonds, apricots, and oats in a food processor and pulse several times until the nuts are in chunks but not completely ground. Remove and add to the almond meal mixture. Stir in the chocolate chip bits.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the honey, egg, coconut oil, and vanilla; mix well.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.
  6. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan. Cover with parchment paper and, using hands, flatten evenly.
  7. Bake for 22 to 24 mins, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Place the pan in the refrigerator to chill before cutting into bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

[Recipe Source: Semi-Modified version of “Granola Style Energy Bars” from The Gluten Free Edge.]

Should Kids Be Allowed To Run Ultras?

Jannine Myers

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A 35-year old pregnant woman who is in the latter stage of her pregnancy and still doing regular CrossFit workouts, received heavy criticism recently after a photo of her lifting a heavy weight was posted on CrossFit Headquarter’s Facebook page. In response to the barrage of criticism, another heavily pregnant athlete (and certified yoga teacher) also posted pictures of herself on Athleta.net, one of which showed her doing a headstand on a paddle board. Her accompanying words attempted to convince readers that women do not have to stop doing what they are doing just because they are pregnant.

The problem however, is that any sport that calls into question seemingly extreme or out-of-the-norm behaviors,  will always draw a certain amount of negative attention towards the person/s performing the questionable behaviors.  And that brings me to the topic of this month’s TrailRunner Magazine’s Blog Symposium Topic:  Should Kids Be Allowed To Run Ultras?

Here again, you have a situation in which a few individuals are engaged in a specific sport, and creating controversial discussions about their participation because they pose a risk of some sort. In the case of kids running ultras, the risk posed is one which directly concerns the kids themselves, in the sense that running such distances may adversely affect their physical development and consequent future sports opportunities. I suppose youth runners are also at a greater risk of more immediate threats, such as injuries yielded on the trails, or nutrition and heat-related illnesses that occur while running. Regardless of the risks they face however, I believe that they should be afforded the same entry rights to ultra races as adult runners.

There is nothing new about kids doing remarkable and dangerous things in the world of sports; we see young gymnasts thrusting their perfectly poised bodies into mid-air and doing triple flips before landing, and young boys body-slamming other boys every time they practice or play a game of rugby, and also young cheerleaders tossing their smaller team members high into the air with the hopeful aim of catching them as they vulnerably fall towards the ground. No one can deny that these young athletes never get hurt, because that simply isn’t true, but for the most part people accept and applaud what they do because they recognize that their training is probably supervised by an experienced coach, and monitored by supportive parents.

Likewise, kids who are running ultras are presumably receiving guidance and advice from an adult mentor who is familiar with the risks and dangers of trail running.  Even a parent with no knowledge at all of ultra-distance running, would at least understand that even the most athletically-talented child would need to receive some training instruction and ultra-running education before signing up for an ultra.

So assuming then, that kids who run ultras, are receiving training advice and necessary safety information, why should that make it okay for them to run ultras? It doesn’t, if they have known health conditions, or if their bodies are not capable of tolerating the excessive demands of endurance running, or even perhaps, if the child is a late-maturer with under-developed muscles and consequently at greater risk of injury. It’s crucial then, that all kids, even those who think they are fit and healthy, undergo a thorough medical screening before parents allow them to commit to a sport, and especially a sport which places greater-than-usual physical stress on their bodies.

Now that we’ve established that kids who are currently, or planning on running future ultras, are a) hopefully being supervised by someone who has the ability to coach and educate them, and b) have been carefully examined by a physician who has deemed them healthy enough to participate in a physically demanding sport, then I believe that apart from parental opposition, there should be nothing preventing kids from running ultras.

On the contrary, if kids who wish to run ultras have a desire to do so because they genuinely enjoy running excessively long distances, then why not grant them that favor. There will undoubtedly be some areas of concern that parents need to be watchful of (for example, a lapse in school grades, risk of overuse injuries, or over-zealousness that leads to unrealistic race goals), but with close monitoring these things can be prevented or detected before they become too much of a problem.

Statistics show that the benefits of kids participating in sports outweigh the negatives, and I believe that the same would also apply to kids participating in higher-risk sports. Consider what alternative options a kid might turn to if denied the opportunity to pursue a sport that he/she is passionate about. As a mother of two daughters, I would much prefer that my daughters fill their time with activities that enhance their physical, emotional, and academic development; a healthy obsession with a sport of their choice would most certainly fit the bill in at least two of these areas.

Furthermore, ultra-running is a sport that may offer additional and unique benefits. Unlike other “risky” sports, such as competitive gymnastics, rugby, or ice hockey, kids who take up ultra-running are not under pressing burdens to execute their routines or game moves perfectly. There is no pressure to excel or to win; goals can be set and worked towards at whatever level of commitment is desirable.

The ultra-running community also offers other unique benefits for kids who choose to get involved. Such kids will be exposed to a different kind of competitive rivalry, one which encourages a rivalry against “self” versus others. Of course, the elite runners are out to compete against one another, but the average ultra-runner sets out to beat his or her previous time, or to simply finish the run and have fun doing it. The camaraderie too, out on the course and at the finish line is something that any adult or kid caught in the midst of cannot help but be positively affected by.

With all of the above said, I’m not so naïve and foolish to think that any kid who wants to run ultras should be allowed to do so, but under the circumstances I’ve noted, I am convinced that some kids should most definitely be allowed.

 

Can’t Break That Habit? That’s Great News!

Jannine Myers

Last weekend, due to the typhoon (and no babysitter), I couldn’t get my runs in so I took the opportunity to sleep in a little longer than I normally would. Of course by Monday I was itching to get back out on the road again, but strangely enough, I also found that it was a little more difficult to get up at my usual time. I had enjoyed the extra sleep the previous two mornings, so much so, that I almost resented having to get up so early on Monday.

The initial aversion I felt when I first got out of bed made me wonder what might happen if I continued to sleep in and not exercise. What if, for argument’s sake, I slept in again on Monday, and enjoyed it so much that I did the same on Tuesday, and so forth? Is it possible that I could easily break my long-term habit of getting up early to exercise? Apparently not!

That’s great news, right? As difficult as it is to break a long-term bad habit, it’s surely just as difficult to break a long-term good habit. Here’s why, according to this article, written by Julia Layton:

  • Changing a habit is never that simple. If it were, overeaters would all be thin, alcoholics would never relapse, and everyone would be up early enough to eat a healthy breakfast before work. For most people, staying away from a bad habit is a lifetime effort, backed up by the fact that those well-worn synaptic pathways never go away. Everything we do (and think, for that matter) is governed by impulses firing across synapses, or spaces between certain cells that guide communication in the brain. When any behavior or pattern is repeated enough, the synaptic pathways associated with that pattern get used to being accessed. As a result, it becomes easier for impulses to travel along those pathways, and the behavior seems “natural.” In other words, to the brain, wake-coffee-cigarette, in that order, is practically instinctive. One action triggers the next.

I realize that Julia Layton is talking about breaking bad habits, but a habit is a habit, whether good or bad. So even if I were to sleep in for several consecutive days, I would think that the odds of never again resuming my usual “wake-up-early-to-exercise” habit is fairly slim; it’s a habit that I have adhered to for way too many years for it not to be ingrained in my synaptic pathways. All it would take is for something to “trigger” the behavior again, and I’d fall right back into it.

So that’s great news for me, but what about those of you who are still trying to form your own regular exercise or run habit? Incidentally, Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business, says in his book that “Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.” He is referring, of course, to positive changes such as improved health, greater work productivity, improved relationships, and less stress.

I scoured the internet for you, looking for the best “habit-forming” strategies and tips, and you may be disappointed with what I found, but it’s what stood out to me as the most favorable. The other sites had some great advice, but they involved multiple steps that build on top of one another and just seemed, in my opinion, to be too exhaustive to follow. I liked best, what Haider Al-Mosawi suggests.

Al-Mosawi says that there are two things that get in the way of our attempts to form new habits: 1/ most people attempt to jump full-fledge into a new habit without allowing for any kind of transition period, and 2/ forming a new habit usually involves a time element, where finding additional time in an already stretched schedule can seem too overwhelming. To combat these two problems, a person can:

  1. Attempt to form a Half Habit – “Rather than trying to commit FULLY to a new habit, you simply take a step in its direction.” In the case of wanting to develop a consistent running routine, you would start with just baby steps that set you up for success rather than failure. Instead of repeatedly (but unsuccessfully) setting the same goal of running five days a week, for example, cut that goal in half and tell yourself that you can manage getting out for a short run just two or three times a week. Once you’ve got that habit firmly in place, then add an extra day, or increase the length of your run time. Focus on small and incremental changes, rather than large and overly-ambitious ones.
  2. Start moving towards your overall goal of becoming a regular runner/exerciser, by forming timeless habits. What Al-Mosawi means by timeless habits, is that there are many smaller habits that can complement the bigger habits, and which take no time at all. For example, cutting out or limiting sugary or fatty foods/beverages from your diet does not take any of your time, yet it leads to healthier dietary choices. Or, choosing to eat your last meal of the day earlier rather than later is also a step towards a healthier lifestyle and it involves no sacrifice of time.

In summary, if your running or exercise habits are already well-ingrained, then congratulations! You’ll have a hard time breaking the routine that you’ve established. But if you are still working on forming such habits, try following the advice above and get to it. It’s hard work initially, but as you can see, the effort is worth it.

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Dealing With Annoying Side Stitch Pain

Jannine Myers

Are you a runner who suffers from the dreaded “side stitch?” If so, then keep reading – this post is for you.

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For some reason I tend to experience the side stitch more often than I would like to admit, but I think I have managed to narrow the cause down to one of two things: a) drinking coffee too soon before my early morning runs, or b) a case of nerves before a race. Whatever the case may be however, it feels terrible and it’s incredibly inconvenient!

In an effort to find out more about the side stitch, I scoured several sites and read numerous posts and articles written by various sports physicians and running experts. I compiled all of their information together and noted the most commonly-thought reasons for the occurrence of running-induced side stitch, as well as recommended prevention and treatment advice. The following is what I came up with:

Possible Causes of Side Stitch:

  • Running on a full stomach, and that’s not limited to just food intake; how much you drink should be considered too. Ingesting too much food and/or liquid, too soon before a run, might be why you sometimes experience side stitch in the early stages of a run.
  • Starting out too fast without allowing your body to adequately warm up.
  • Your breathing pattern may also be the cause of your stomach cramps; it may be that your breathing is too shallow or erratic.
  • Side stitch during longer runs may be due to dehydration and/or sodium deficiency.
  • Last but not least, your stomach cramps could possibly be the result of functional (strength and flexibility) weakness.

Prevention Strategies:

  • Be mindful of how soon you eat and drink before going out to run, and also take into consideration what you eat. Eating foods that are higher in fat or fiber take longer to digest and might not be ideal if eaten just an hour or two prior to running. It’s a good idea to experiment with various easily-digested foods, to see what works best for you, keeping in mind that what works well for someone else may not work as well for you.
  • Include a decent warm-up phase in your runs – some runners are able to keep a steady, moderate pace from start to finish but if you are prone to stomach cramping, it might pay to ease into your runs with a slow and gradual increase in pace.
  • Check your running form and ensure that you are maintaining good posture. If you are a runner who tends to hunch over while running, you will find it hard to take deep breaths.
  • For runs lasting longer than an hour, you need to stay hydrated, and if you will be running for several hours then maintaining a good balance of blood electrolytes (calcium, potassium, and sodium, for example), is also critical. HammerNutrition.com provides some great hydration recommendations:

How much fluid should you drink?

Average Athlete, average temps Lighter athletes or cooler temps Heavier athletes or hotter temps
20-25 oz/hr (approx 590-740 ml/hr) is an appropriate fluid intake for most athletes under most conditions. For lighter weight athletes, or those exercising in cooler temperatures, 16-18 oz/ hr (approx 473-532 ml) may be perfect. Heavier athletes or athletes competing in hotter conditions may consider intakes upwards of 28 oz/hr (approx 830 ml/hr).

For further advice (and a thorough explanation) from HammerNutrition.com, on electrolyte replenishment, you can visit their page here.

  • Don’t neglect your core; incorporate a few core strengthening exercises into your weekly workout routine, especially if you know that this is an area of weakness for you.

Side Stitch Remedies:

  • Gently push your fingers into the area where you’re feeling the stitch (you can try this either standing or lying flat on your back) — that should help relieve some of the pain.
  • Stop running and take long, slow deep breaths. Stretch (right arm extended upward, lean to the left, hold for 20-30 seconds, repeat with the left arm stretched upward).
  • Stop running or walking and bend forward, while tightening the abdominal muscles.
  • Try changing your breathing/striding pattern. If your side stitch is on your left side, try exhaling when your right foot strikes the ground, or vice versa.
  • If all else fails, you may have to stop and walk briskly while continuing to take deep breaths, and only resume running after the stitch goes away.