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Fitness | FITNESS Q&A

Ways to fend off that pain in the side

November 18, 2002|Stephanie Oakes | Special to The Times

Are there any ways to prevent side-stitches when I exercise?

Although many people experience these pains -- sometimes sharp, sometimes dull and nagging -- in the side of their abdomens, experts aren't sure of the exact cause. The best theories include muscle spasms in the diaphragm or trapped gas pockets (caused by exercising too soon after eating). Because we aren't sure of the cause, it's hard to say exactly how to prevent them. But recent research from New Zealand found a few things that may help reduce the risk of side-stitches:

After a meal, wait 30 to 90 minutes before exercising.

Instead of high-intensity workouts, try longer, lower-intensity workouts.

Do a long warmup at a slow, easy pace.

If these prevention strategies fail, slow down and breathe deeply to alleviate the pain. Press your fingers to your side, giving the painful area a sort of "pressure massage."

But the researchers, at the New Zealong Academy of Sport in Auckland also found that as aerobic fitness increases, side-stitches seem to diminish. So my best advice is to be consistent with your workouts and exercise at an even pace. As your endurance and cardiovascular fitness improve, the less likely you are to have annoying side-stitches.

At the gym the other day, I overheard a trainer tell his client they were going to work her deltoids. What are deltoids and how do you work them?

The deltoids aren't a mysterious body part -- they're the muscles covering the shoulder joints -- but they are often neglected when we work out.

For muscle balance and strength, we should work all our shoulder muscles, not just the front. These exercises are quick, easy and target the front (anterior deltoid), middle (deltoid) and rear (posterior deltoid) shoulder muscles These muscles need to be strong, not only for sports but also for everyday tasks.

Shoulder presses (work the mid- and top shoulder):

Sit on a chair or a bench, holding weights in each hand. Keep your back straight with both feet flat on the floor. With palms facing forward, raise your arms to shoulder level and bend your elbows so that your arms have a 90-degree angle.

Press the weights overhead until your arms are almost straight. Bend your arms and slowly lower the weights to the starting, 90-degree position.

Lateral raise (works the middle of the shoulder):

Holding a weight in each hand, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Keep your arms at your sides with your palms facing in.

Bend your arms slightly and raise them up and out to the sides until they're just below shoulder height. Slowly lower to the start.

Rear shoulder fly (works the rear part of the shoulders):

Holding a weight in each hand, sit on the edge of a bench or chair. Keep your feet flat on the floor. With arms straight down at your sides (palms facing inward), bend over at the hips so your chest is over your thighs and you feel a stretch through the back of your shoulders.

While bent over, lift your arms up and out to the sides. Keep elbows slightly bent as you lift. Once your arms reach shoulder height, lower the weights to the start.

Do this shoulder workout twice a week, preferably with three sets of each exercise.

Stretch: To help prevent injuries, add a shoulder stretch between sets. Stand or sit (back straight) with your hands clasped behind your back. If you're flexible enough, press your palms together, fingers pointing backward. Stretch your arms up as far as you comfortably can as you lift your arms, your chest and shoulder muscles will expand and stretch. Keeping your palms together, stretch your arms up.

Relax and repeat between each shoulder set.

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Send questions by e-mail to stephoakes@aol.com. She cannot respond to every query.

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