Even when I don’t have the nervous race jitters, my bowels feel the need to leave my body after 1-2 miles in my daily run. This has caused so many issues that I find myself planning my running routes where I know there is a bathroom after 1 mile. I’ve even resigned myself to running 1-2 miles on the treadmill at home before hitting the road to make sure I have easy access to the bathroom.
My husband gave me the name, “Jersey Mikes” because in our old neighborhood the Jersey Mikes was 1.5 miles away and it was my standard stop to relieve my mid-run trots.
At first I was highly embarrassed for my tummy troubles, but after talking with other runners I learned that I’m not alone. Many runners have tummy troubles, including diarrhea and nausea.
The reason this happens is because during long runs and races our bodies move the blood flow towards our muscles and away from our GI tract. Because we don’t have blood flow to our GI tract, it can be more difficult to handle fluids and nutrition. This is compounded by the fact that running jostles the intestines through the pounding of the pavement.
Here are a few tips that will help you with runner’s tummy troubles:
- Know your body
Just as I plan my runs to where I can use the potty after 1-2 miles, you should learn and understand your body so you can plan accordingly. You may find that if you drink a cup of coffee in the morning, it can expedite your relieving of your bowels so you can take care of business before your run.
- Watch what and when you eat
Eat your morning meal one or two hours before running. If you eat too close to your run, it increases the likelihood of tummy troubles. You will also want to avoid foods high in fiber, fat or sorbitol. Test out different foods during your training so you can ensure not to make a mistake on race day. Do not eat anything new or different on the days leading up to your race or on race day or you run the risk of your body not dealing with it well. Keep a food journal and evaluate what you are eating and monitor if it has any effects on your running.
Dehydration compounds the problem, so make sure you drink lots of water leading up to your race. Once you start your run, it’s too late to begin the hydration process. You will want to make sure that you drink plenty of water and hydrate before your run and stay hydrated throughout your run. In the days leading up to your race eat foods high in water, such as watermelon, soups and celery. Also consider drinking water with electrolytes, PowerAde, coconut water or Pedialyte, which will replace your electrolytes. While Pedialyte is now marketed for children, it was first used by endurance runners in the 1980s and 90s. Pedialyte has twice the sodium of Gatorade and half the sugar. It also does not have sucrose, a sugar used in other sports drinks, which ironically has a hydrating effect.
- Minimize anxiety
Pre-race nerves can cause tummy troubles. Give yourself enough time in the morning to get to the race so you aren’t in a rush on race morning. There is nothing worse than running late to a race and worrying about finding a parking spot and getting to the start line in time. Minimize morning prep by laying your outfit out the night before the race. Pin your race bib on your shirt, fill your water bottle/Camelbak, set out your shoes and socks and pack your race nutrition. This will help you get out the door quickly without stress.
- Take Immodium
I am going to preface this by saying I’m not a doctor, so do not take this as medial advice….but, I take an immodium the night before a race, as well as one in the morning. This helps make sure I don’t “run” for the porta potty throughout the race. I’ve spoken with many other runners who use this method, but for some, it stops them up for a few days. Check out more information on the uses and side effects for immodium.
Please tell me I’m not alone. Mother runners – do you have potty problems when you run? What are some of your tips?