Don’t Crap out on Your Next Run – Tips for Dealing with Runner’s Diarrhea
By Jamie King, Competitive Ultra Runner
I’ve been in some crappy situations while running. I’ve had to duck behind a tree just off of the trail, dip behind a bush just off of a running path (once right in the middle of a race!), and have even had to use a stranger’s bathroom. One time, I even had to get a little “creative” with snow (use your imagination here).
And yes, I’m talking about poop.
At this point, if you’re reading this and thinking, awkward or worse yet, girls don’t poop, go ahead and get your giggles out and face the facts. We all poop. And anyone who runs or exercises regularly has experienced an unpredictable bowel movement. It happens. Sometimes without much warning.
In fact, I’d be willing to guess that most runners, from the most experienced to the newbies, have at some point in their running career experienced digestive issues while running. When you run (or exercise), the simple fact of the matter is that you’re stimulating your gastrointestinal tract. And if you’re running long distances (like say, a marathon or an ultramarathon), you’re also affecting your circulation. Basically, while running long distances, less blood is flowing to your gastrointestinal tract due to the blood flow requirements of the rest of your body, which often means diarrhea. Cha, cha, cha. (I had to, sorry).
So how can you avoid the mid-run poo-mergency?
While there are no surefire ways to avoid a mid-run pit stop (when you gotta go….), there are some things you can do to prevent an all-out poo-mergency. Here are my tips and tricks for avoiding crapping out on your next run:
1. Drink water
You should drink water, anyway…obviously. But in this case, ample hydration, especially during the days leading up to a run or race, will help keep you regular and without incident.
2. Decrease your fiber intake
If you’re gearing up for a long run or race, decrease (or even eliminate!) your fiber intake in the day or two leading up to your event. While fiber is an important part of our diet, it’s also the very thing that makes us have to go! I often try not to eat any fiber-rich foods two days prior to any race or event (looking at you, cruciferous vegetables!). While training, just try and avoid eating fiber 2–4 hours before you run.
3. Give yourself time
If you run early in the morning (or your race is early in the morning), wake up with plenty of time to get your body moving. Stimulate your GI with movement and maybe even a warm beverage (tea or coffee), or warm foods (say, oatmeal), so you can get things moving before it’s time to move!
Any experienced runner knows that routine is everything. Don’t try a new food on race day or drink coffee for the first time ever. Be smart about what you’re putting in your body before a run and make sure you know how your body typically responds to those things. For my long runs and big races, I try to eat simple, easily digestible foods. Things like sweet potatoes, rice, and peanut butter work well for me, while I will avoid things like cheese, beans, and cruciferous vegetables (leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower…). But you truly have to find what works for you!
And sure, sometimes a quick mid-run poop is no big deal, like if you’re lucky enough to be near a cafe, or you find yourself on the trails near a full-access campground. But sometimes, for those of us less fortunate, the only option is to take cover and go!
If faced with a poo-mergency, don’t panic, just be prepared:
1. Know your route
If possible, be prepared by getting to know your route and all of the potential detours. When I’m training, I often know where the nearest Starbucks, gas station, porta potty or even campgrounds are relative to my route.
2. Be prepared
After getting creative with snow one morning, I vowed to never have to experience that again. Now, whether or not I know if there are facilities available, I always carry a little bit of toilet paper in my running shorts or water bottle pocket. And as a bonus, mainly since I have a dog, I’m also usually toting poo bags (great for human waste, too!).
3. Another reason to always carry water
I always carry at least a handheld water bottle when I run. Not only am I always guaranteed hydration while running, I also have a little water handy in case I need to wash my hands…or… I’ll let you fill in the blanks.
4. Don’t panic, be resourceful
It’s true, we all poo and it’s not always pretty. Ok, it’s never pretty. If you really can’t make it to a facility or you don’t have any toilet paper stashed away, there are always ways to poo and rally. For example, snow works as a great cleaning agent and large leaves have been known to be helpful. Whatever you do, wherever the emergency strikes, remember to still try your best to be respectful of others and the environment (bury it).
But even with the best preparation, sometimes poop happens. Don’t be ashamed, we’ve all been there. The cold sweats, the slight panic, the rumbling in the belly….it happens to the best of us. Hopefully, with a little experience, preparation, and knowledge, you’ll be able to avoid some really crappy situations.
About Jamie King:
Jamie is the founder of Fit Approach, a popular online fitness community where bloggers, brands, and fitness enthusiasts come together over their love for sweat and their #sweatpink lifestyle. She is also a 500-hour RYT and owner of Flex & Flow, a popular training and yoga studio as well as a competitive ultramarathon runner and all-around fitness enthusiast. Jamie has had the pleasure of teaching fitness and yoga since 2005 and is simply in love with all things movement.
When she’s not dripping with sweat, you can usually find her snuggling or playing ball with Abbie, her Vizsla puppy or exploring all of the great restaurants and beautiful outdoors in the PNW. Connect with her on Instagram or on her blog!