Finally, ESPN got on the SUAR bandwagon and agreed that shit happens.
In an article published earlier this week (read HERE), ESPN takes on poop. More specifically, pooping and running. In the eloquent words of the author, “Athletes poop their pants (or shorts) more often than you realize.” The article goes so far as to contend that Jesus pooped, reminding us that even the divine needed to take a dumper. No offense intended. ESPN brought it up.
People!! We all do it!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it may not be the most attractive of subjects, but everyone's got a story. Whether you messed yourself on the playground when you were in third grade thereby inheriting the nickname “Squirt,” or you are like me and blew up and overflowed the toilet at your boyfriend's grandparent’s house when you were 18, the likelihood is that some bodily function snuck up on you at some point in your life.
For me, the pooping issue started early on. I have a vivid memory of skid marks in my underwear when I was four (but, in my defense, no one is that good at wiping when you’re four, right?). I used to throw my soiled drawers behind the furnace in our basement so I wouldn’t get in trouble. Fortunately for my family, our house never went up in flames of skid marked underwear. We moved from that house when I was five, so SURPRISE to the new owners! In my teens, when that Police song came out that sang, “There’s a little black spot on the sun today,” my dad would always sing “There’s a little brown spot in your underwear.” See? It’s in the genes (jeans).
(Dad, if you’re reading you can comment on this).
As the article states, “Poop is the great equalizer.” For example, when I ran with Dean Karnazes in August I was intimidated, star struck even. Until I reminded myself that he sits on the crapper just like me and pushes one out (no disrespect intended, Dean. As if he reads this blog). Try it sometime. If you’re going for a job interview and feeling the nerves, picture your future boss, pants down, on the toilet reading US Weekly. Like I said, great equalizer.
What I love about the article, is it not only gives great detail about the ultimate crap fests endured by athletes, but it goes into the physiology of why this happens, especially to runners:
“The body starts shunting blood away form the nonessential systems, like digestion and waste, in order to feed the heart, lungs and muscles with nutrients and oxygen. Anytime blood is removed from the colon by exercise, water and other material that should have been absorbed along the way instead pass rapidly to the rectum. There, spikes in volume and pressure trigger nerves in the sphincter that emit urgent warnings to the brain. In less scientific circles this is what is known as prairie doggin.’”
Prairie doggin’? I always thought it was called “turtle head” or something.
My favorite source, the Urban Dictionary, defines prairie doggin’ as: “The uncomfortable sensation resulting from a turd repeatedly pressing against the rectal sphincter and having to be squeezed back in; analogous to a prairie dog popping its head in and out of its burrow.”
To use it in a sentence (like your English teacher always advised): “Damn, I gotta find me a shitter fast cuz I'm prairie doggin’ one monster of a log!”
I don’t know about you, but I feel better knowing why I squirt on runs. What to do about it? Who knows. Here’s what I’ve heard (source):
- Stay well hydrated
- Avoid caffeine. Caffeine, which can be a performance enhancer, can also speed the movement of waste through your colon
- Watch the amount of fiber and fat you consume, especially in the hours before you run. Eating high-fiber foods just before running can wreak havoc on your tummy
- Allow 4 to 6 hours before your workout for a big meal to digest
- Increase your exercise level gradually, allowing your body to adapt to the demands of a more rigorous regime
- Choose foods you know are safe in your system. Avoid trying a new energy bar or sports drink on the day of a race
- Avoid anything that fits tightly around your waist. Clothing that's too small, fanny packs and water-bottle holders can put added pressure on your stomach
- Choose foods that are naturally constipating, such as bananas, plain bagels, rice, oatmeal and pasta. Avoid adding other things like butter, peanut butter or sauces.
I also find it helpful to cut way back on dairy and fatty foods during the 48 hours leading up to a race or long run.
Fascinating that runners are so driven to keep going that we often ignore signals from the brain telling us to stop for a poo. Or we play the mind game, “Can I make it home before shitting myself?” or “Only 2 more miles to the finish line. I don’t want to ruin my time, so I think I’ll push it even though I’m prairie doggin’” We take gambles with poop and sometimes we win and sometimes it gets messy.
So, be careful out there on your long runs or races this weekend. As the article says, “When the rectum fills to a certain point, for a certain amount of time, there's nothing anyone can do to hold it back.” And just remember, if you do crap yourself it always makes for a good story later. I’ll be your personal support group.