Running 13, 13.1's in 2013 and the thoughts along the way!

When you gotta go…

on May 21, 2013


I write this post for those that might be too scared to ask or embarrassed to admit that the bathroom is a major challenge when training for a road race. While there are those shy people out there, there are plenty of people who are not afraid to ask…When do I go to the bathroom?? When I worked in a fitness center, clients would ask for bathroom advice when training for a road race, When should I go to the bathroom? What should I do if I have to go during my run? Should I carry TP with me? At first I was embarrassed to talk them through dealing with bathroom troubles, I am personal trainier, not Gastroenterologist, but then reliezed bathroom troubles can be one of the biggest barriers when long distance running.

My first two marathons came with major bathroom troubles, I knew where every Starbucks was in Boston, and I think every Barista knew me as the girl who never bought coffee but held up the bathroom line. As soon as I would wake up on Saturdays for my long run, I would start to think about the bathroom, I got anxious, my stomach would be in knots, and I genuinely was not looking forward to my run. I would get out on the road anyways and within 3 miles not feel so great and need to make a pit stop. It was frustrating, but I pushed through the training. I ate the same things before each run and stuck to “tummy” friendly foods, but still without fail every Saturday would require a non-coffee trip to Starbucks.

Fast forward to training for Chicago last summer and my current Half Marathon challenge, I can say that my bathroom troubles haven gone away…for the most part. I am still a human and my body is still going to have days where it just is in a funk, but for the most part the bathroom stress no longer exists. Here are some tips if you are a bathroom bound runner:

  • Don’t think about it! When you wake up for a long run or race just let your body determine what you need. I think my bathroom troubles were much more in my head, than actual physical issues. I had one bad experience of being out on a run “stranded” if you will, and ever since, I was so nervous to expereince that again, it got the best of me.
  • Use shorter training runs to practice what to eat pre-run. Find foods that provide you with energy but are “tummy” friendly. Here are few (note everyone is different, so do what works for YOU!): Slice of white bread with tablespoon of peanut butter, 1/2 cup of plain cherrios with 1/4 cup of milk, banana w/peanut butter, 1/2 a cliff bar. The list could go on, but try to avoid high fiber and sugary foods. Again there is much more I could add here, but bottom line: simple foods are better.
  • Don’t be afraid to say you gotta go! If you run with a group or training partner and you do get hit with the urge to go, listen to your body. Your running pals are not going to judge you for using the restroom. We have all been there and as the classic children’s book says…Everyone Poops. But seriously, don’t try to ignore it, just go!
  • Be ready on race day to stand in bathroom lines. Learn to love port-a-jons. Its almost a gurantee that if you got to go pre-race, you are going to be standing in a long line for a non-flushing toilet. It may be gross, but once you get over your fear of the port-a-jon, you will be good to go (no pun intended). I actually cycle through the line twice if it is a long line, you can always step out of the line if you no longer feel you have to go, but I would rather be 100% feeling good, than waiting in line as the start time gets closer and closer.
  • If peeing is your problem, practice your fluid in take, this was another mistake of mine early on. I was so nervous about being dehydrated that I would chug two bottles of water before a run and then sip water every 10 minutes while I was running. While there is a very fine balance of too little or too much drinking, practice, practice, practice!

While the tips may seem pretty straightforward, I really wanted to post this to make those that are self conscious feel better. Sure it might be a little awkward, but once you get over the fear of the bathroom, your running experience becomes so much better, take it from someone who has been there.

Runnersworld posted a great article with more details around the nutrition side of this topic, check it out here: http://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-runners/how-can-i-avoid-midrun-bathroom-breaks

Run On-


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