If you are anything like 99% of the rest of us, running is hard enough without having to worry about dashing to find a toilet at less than a moment’s notice! Gastrointestinal stress is a real problem and there’s no need to be embarrassed about it. It’s so common it’s even coined its own name the ‘runner’s trots’.
Why? And more importantly why ME?
Although it affects people in a multitude of ways. ‘Runner’s trots’ are predominantly down to a combination of gut irritation, timings of those pre-run snacks, and ultimately the fact that the physical act of running creates an atmosphere in your bowel ideal for passing stool!
No dilly dallying around the truth here…
Luckily there will be some reading this (the jammy devils) who have never experienced their stomach rebelling 2 reps into a session or halfway along the proms, who can happily go about their active lives without hesitation. BUT for those of you who live in a constant state of poo panic during those long runs, this blog’s for you.
Prevention is better than cure
1. Avoid key food groups which cause gut irritation the night before and the morning of a run/race. High intakes of fat, protein, fructose and fibre, especially pre-run, can encourage bowel movements and should be avoided. High fat foods digest slowly and sit in your stomach. They can also affect the way your body digests other foods you may have eaten. Refined carbs are a great alternative to whole grain and fibre-rich foods (like bran flakes). I tend to find a slice (or three) of white toast with lashings of nut butter does the trick pre-run.
2. Dairy is a BIG no no for me. A key one to curb to skip the pit stops. Obvious for the dairy intolerant among us, however applicable to the masses too, as our stomachs naturally become more sensitive during times of high intensity activity or stress aka marathon day! Try alternatives such as rice, soya or oat milk which don’t contain lactose, a sugar known to give your stomach a headache, when it comes to digesting it.
3. Be aware of your triggers. Keep a food diary. Find out what works and what really doesn’t work and stick to it. Solids or wholefoods, as an alternative to energy gels during a longer run, can reduce your likelihood of running for the nearest secluded bush! If you have a key race approaching, practise your morning breakfast routine as well as your race nutrition before the big day, over the course of your training, and stick to it. I was always taught to wait 2 hours after a snack or a meal, before going for a run. A rule I’ve always found to work. However no two runner’s are the same and what works for one may not work for another. A team mate of mine is renowned for having crisps and snacks on the actual start line!!! Take from this what you will… but don’t be trying something new on race day, it’s really not worth the risk.
4. Dehydration is proven to exasperate the problem! STAY HYDRATED! And not just on the the morning of a run/race. In the days leading up to your long run/race, drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol. Not only does alcohol dehydrate you, but it can also prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.
5. Try to avoid caffeine (not best pleased with my own advice here as I LOVE CAFFEINE). You don’t need to quit coffee altogether, phew, just make sure you time those morning caffeine hits correctly. A big black coffee an hour before a session will end up being your worst nightmare a mile in…
6. Imodium is a funny one – surely for most a last resort but for many a training and race day essential. Depending on how unpredictable your bowels seem to be, if you don’t want the hassle, or you’ve simply had ENOUGH, having an Imodium to kill that worry is not a bad thing. I just wouldn’t recommend getting dependant on it, as it’s not the best for your body and can stop you ‘going’ for days.
Have a plan
PLAN toilet breaks. Obviously knowing where and when you’ll need to go can be hard to predict, so don’t be afraid to get creative mid training run… I’ve blagged my way into an old people’s home before (no shame here)! Make sure you know the location of the toilet block or Portaloos at the start of race and go early, nobody likes waiting in a queue. Going for a little jog usually loosens things up so plan a potty break post warm-up!
Lastly, relax! (Ironic eh?!) Probably the most important advice I can pass on. Stressing about needing to poop will most likely make you need to poop! So relax, stick to the advice given above and enjoy anxiety free blissful running! REMEMBER – this is a VERY common problem. Don’t be embarrassed, talk to people, you are not alone. You never know they may have a funny story or two to tell and even some advice of their own wrapped up in all that poo talk.
If you need any further information or advice on how to prevent stomach problems and improve your run, feel free to contact any one of our team members, in our shops or online.
Up next? Read our 5 alternatives to energy gels blog to discover non-gooey nutrition options for long runs and races!