10 Foolproof Ways To Deal With The Gross Parts Of Running

From how to avoid throwing up to how to make yourself poop, race day will be smooth sailing if you take heed of these tips.


Meghan Kita |

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There’s something about running that turns even the classiest among us into shameless beasts who’ll do whatever it takes to be comfortable and competitive. While blowing snot rockets and relieving yourself outdoors may seem unthinkable in street clothes, doing so in a tank top and split shorts seems to give us all a pass.

1. Make Yourself Poop

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If there’s one thing all runners can relate to, it’s the need to do your business before you get down to business on the road. First, try drinking a warm liquid, such as coffee, tea, or hot water to get things moving.

Studies have found that regular and decaf coffee have the same poo-inducing effect. Choose your favourite hot beverage and drink it at least 30 minutes before go time. If your pre-run coffee doesn’t do the trick, perform your warm-up near a bathroom. Motion can bring on a bowel movement, as anyone who has needed a potty break just minutes into a run can attest. An added bonus: Warming up pre-run enlivens your muscles and gets your heart pumping. Try a dynamic warm-up routine before leaving home—with moves such as jumping jacks, walking lunges, and skips—or just jog around the block until you’re ready to make.

RELATED: The 5-Minute Warm-Up You Should Be Doing!

When all else fails, try putting gentle pressure on your perineum, the area between your genitals and your anus. A 2014 study from UCLA found this may help ease constipation.

2. Pee Discreetly

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Before a run, most men can hydrate, then urinate with reckless abandon because male anatomy makes it easy to relieve oneself almost anywhere quickly and discreetly. Female anatomy, however, isn’t so accommodating. To make it easier to pee when there’s no potty (porta- or otherwise), follow this easy, two-step process.

First, you want to dress for success. In tights or capris, there’s no way to wee without dropping trou. Shorts are a better option. Short compression shorts as well as the built-in briefs underneath baggier shorts can be shifted aside. The best bet, however, is a running skirt, one with built-in briefs or a briefless option paired with bunhuggers. You can easily pull briefs aside beneath the skirt, and the two-piece option allows you to remove the briefs entirely. Black is the smartest colour choice because it hides splashes well and matches everything.

Once you’ve found some privacy, take a knee. Lower down on your right knee, with your right foot behind you and your left leg bent at a 90-degree angle in front of you. Take the fabric of the right side of your shorts in your hands with one in front of you and one behind you, and shift it toward your left leg. This should create enough space to let it flow. Kneeling just in front of a tree offers additional protection – passersby might simply think you’re lunging!

3. Avoid Vomitting Post-Run

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While nobody enjoys puking, some runners think doing it after a hard workout or race is proof that you really gave your all. Those runners are almost always wrong. Sprinting and then spewing is usually caused at least in part by your food and drink choices. If you make the following changes and you still hurl, congrats – you really are pushing until you puke.

RELATED: 5 Reasons Why Running Makes You Vomit

4. Eat, Then Wait

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Heavy breathing can create pressure in your abdominal cavity. If your stomach is fairly full pre-run, that’s a recipe for disaster. Try having your pre-run meal or snack further in advance – two to three hours is usually safe.

5. Practice Fuelling Slowly

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When you run, your body diverts blood away from your digestive system and towards your working muscles. This effect increases as you run harder, and it’s more pronounced in the heat. If you eat or drink too much before, during, or after a hard effort, you’ll bonk. When you’re going long enough to need mid-run fuel, take in a small sip of sports drink or gel followed by a small sip of water, wait, and repeat. If you need to take in solid foods, take small bites and wash them down with water.
RELATED: Should You Grab a Gel, Energy Bar, or Sports Drink?

6. Hydrate Well

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Dehydration also slows digestion, so taking sips of water throughout a hard effort reduces your nausea risk.

7. Skip Vomit-Inducing Foods

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Anything acidic, such as citrus fruits or juices, as well as anything high in fat, fibre, or protein, can slow digestion. Stick to mostly bland, simple carbs pre-run.

8. Get Ahead

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An hour before a hard run, taking antacids might tamp down the urge to purge.

9. Keep Moving

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Slowing to a walk or stopping entirely after running really hard can startle your stomach. Instead, keep jogging.

10. Stop Poop Before the Race

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No one wants to use the porta-loos along the race courses, but the clock stops for no one – and for no number two, either. The potties are there for the unfortunate souls who didn’t learn how to prevent a poop-tastrophe – or how to stop one in its tracks.

Instead of just praying your poop will go away, watch what you eat and drink in the days prior. Even the common strategy of carbo-loading can spell intestinal disaster if you eat the wrong things. (And for some people, pasta – believe it or not – may be a “wrong thing.”) You might be able to determine your gut triggers in training, but if you’ve missed that window, avoid the common culprits of dairy products, artificial sweeteners, soy, eggs, caffeine, and gluten just to be safe. Also limit your intake of foods high in fat and fibre.

Watching how much you eat can also help. It’s simple: More food in equals more poop out. Carbo-loading doesn’t mean eating more calories; it means getting a greater proportion of your calories from carbohydrates. You should leave meals the day before the race feeling sated but not stuffed. If you’re anxious on race day, skip the morning coffee. Even if it’s usually okay in training, it can enrage a nervous stomach. When you must have morning caffeine to function, take in a caffeinated gel or two prerace; that format is easier on your innards.
RELATED: How to Deal with Pre-Race Anxiety

Then work on calming down. Deep breathing or listening to relaxing music pre-race can help limit the laxative effects of adrenaline. Looking at a course map and knowing exactly where the toilets are might soothe your mind enough that you won’t have to use them.

During the race, stick with the slow fuel plan mentioned earlier. Taking in small sips of gel or sports drink (followed by water) on the course can ensure you don’t over-excite your digestive system or swallow air that can cause gas and bloating. In desperate times, reach for anti-diarrheal medications – if you’ve tried them in training. Start with a half or quarter dose, and avoid taking so much that you’re constipated post-run.

Excerpted from Runner’s World How to Make Yourself Poop. Copyright © 2018 by Meghan Kita. Published by Rodale Books, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

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