As a runner, I used to experience “runner’s poop” a lot. A gross topic, I know. But this embarrassing problem is normal for runners, especially women. For me personally, when I was training for a half marathon, it seemed like I had to stop to go (at least once) during all of my long runs. I tried many different remedies to treat this uncomfortable dilemma. And the closer the big race became, the more nervous I grew. If I stopped to use the bathroom, it would slow my pace down. Maybe I’d go so much that I wouldn’t be able to finish the race.
These thoughts consumed me. I could no longer enjoy my trail running because I had to be sure there would be a bathroom nearby. One morning run, for example, I had to sprint into two different gas station bathrooms. I almost didn’t make it! I left embarrassed and couldn’t even finish my run. So finally, I started to research all of the different ways to stop my embarrassing problem–and I tried it all. Some helped, some didn’t. Try to figure out what works best for you.
Avoid coffee or other caffeine products before running.
Caffeine is a stimulant — and if you’re already a regular coffee-drinking adult, you probably know that it can get things (ahem, your bowels) moving. So you may want to avoid it before a long run.
Caffeine can also enhance your runners’ stress or anxiety even more, and often result in the poops. If you find that this occurs with you, you may want to try cutting out caffeine before you run (a sad thought, I know).
Avoid foods high in fat and with added sweeteners.
Foods high in fat and those who have added sweeteners (like coffee creamer, gum, etc.) can upset one’s belly. And when you add running to the mix, your stomach only jostles around more — making you more likely to poop when you just don’t want to
Test energy gels and jelly beans before a race.
If you’re a victim of runner’s bowel problems, be sure to test running gels before the big race day. You could also try to make it during a long run without taking them at all. These are loaded with added sweeteners and almost always upset my stomach. So, on my big race day, I was sure to simply drink the water offered to me at the race stops and say “no thank you” to all of the gels.
Wake up extra early to drink your coffee and poop.
If you decide that you can’t live without your coffee (like me), Drew Hilbrandt, M.S., P.A.-C at Hurley Medical Center and assistant professor at The University of Michigan-Flint, told SheKnows: “Try waking up an hour and half early to clear your system of its waste. That way, you’ll not only be able to finish your run without stopping, but you’ll feel lighter, too.”
Wear loose fitting pants or shorts around waist
I ended up wearing shorts that were a tad looser around my belly for my long runs and avoided tight yoga pants. I found that if the waistband was too snug, it upset my stomach even more — making me need to stop my run.
While many runners may want to avoid taking any kind of over-the-counter medicine, if your bowels are only getting worse as you run, you may want to take something like Imodium to help you out. This was a game-changer for me.
For me, I had to do many of these things to avoid “the shits” while I run. I wasn’t willing to give up my coffee (trust me, I tried, it wasn’t pretty) — so instead, I woke up extra early to drink my coffee and try to clean my system out. I found the routine that sets my belly at-ease and my runs are much more enjoyable now.
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