It seems I have become the poop counselor. The fart correspondent. The shart expert.
I am not sure if it is good to be a pro in this area. I fear that one day I will be asked to testify in a court of law and that I will be qualified as an expert in poopology. I guess there could be worse things, but I can’t think of what they might be.
My home away from home
Today I received a question from a reader that went something or exactly like this:
“You seem honest to a fault so I'm hoping you can give me some tips. I haven't run more than a 5K because (and this is embarrassing to admit) I have "digestive issues." I'm terrified to be miles from home without a bathroom. Before a 5K, I swear, I'm in the bathroom ten times because of nerves! How do you handle long runs and races?”
“Honest to a fault?” She makes it sound like a bad thing.
All kidding aside, this is a really important subject. Runners notoriously suffer from bad cases of the trots, or at the very least an upset stomach. I’ve heard lots of theories on why this is true, the most predominant one being that when we run, the blood goes to our muscles and neglects our digestive system. This leads to cramps, turtling, and severe panic about crapping one’s pants.
You may be be a liar or you may be the exception, but this need to evacuate has happened to the best of us, to most of us. I, in particular, have been a victim one too many times.
I’ve done my best to figure out what works to avoid this messy conundrum. Following are a few sure-fire ways to minimize the risk of crapping one’s pants while running and racing:
- The single most helpful thing for me has been to eliminate or drastically reduce fiber, dairy and fatty foods up to 36 hours before a long run or race. Typically, my diet is pretty rich in roughage, whole grains, beans, etc. But, I really do change things up the days before a race. I take in lots of water and reduce my intake of fruits, vegetables, yogurt, cheese and any higher fat foods. I’ve had great success with this plan.
- Overly exerting myself makes things worse. On long runs, I stick to long-run pace (60 to 90 seconds slower than my ideal marathon pace), and this helps significantly. In races I am usually exerting a great deal, so this plan doesn’t work well under those circumstances.
- Don’t laugh, but I try to get on a strict poop schedule. I train my body by eating and sleeping with a routine in mind (as much as possible). A cup of coffee in the morning usually gets stuff going. Nine times out of ten if I can get something out before a long run or race I’m good to go. Occasionally there will be a lingering nugget in there that causes problems, but not usually.
- It helps to not eat the two hours before a long run or race. Give your body time to digest your pancakes. Once, in all of my naiveté, I ate a huge bowl of beef stroganoff right before a run. This was a like a huge practical joke I played on myself.
- Pre-race nerves are definitely an issue and can get stuff moving when you wish it would stay put. That’s why I’ve been known to take multiple dumps on an airplane. I hate to fly and I’m nervous. Do everything in your power to minimize any extra anxiety on race day. Give yourself enough time, breathe deeply, think about the nap you will take later. Distraction is a great tool because the mind can only think about one thing at a time. Don’t let it take you hostage.
- I never mix gels/chews with sport’s drink. I choose one or the other. I find that mixing various sugar types and chemicals doesn’t bode well for me and my colon. Ever hear the saying, “Sport’s drinks and gel, your stomach will give you hell?”
- I hate to stop and do business during a race. But, it does help to have a back up plan in your mind. Know your potty options. Plan long runs around your favorite bushes or gas station bathrooms. Study your race map or drive the course so you know your potty-ops. Taking charge and knowing what to expect may reduce some poop anxiety.
- I know some people take Imodium to calm things down. I have not tried this mostly because that stuff constipates me. Yes, that is the point, but I find it rally messes with my system and I have a hard time getting back to normal even days later.
Here’s to crap-less runs!
Anyone have any other tips to share?
Ever had a bathroom emergency on a long run or during a race? My favorite was during the Boston Marathon last year. You can read HERE.