February 24, 2012

Get rid of runner's diarrhea

My main goal with this blog is to not segue every single post into a poop story. It's really tricky, but I still try. Luckily today a segue isn't even required. This post is to tell you straight up the best ways to avoid pooping your pants during your long runs and races.

You don't have to be this guy. 


When I first started running last year, I used an the indoor track at my gym. One of the first things I noted was that my intestines were very sensitive to the foot pounding. Luckily, there was a restroom close by so that I could take a pit stop anytime I needed. For the first few months, I stopped at least once during every run, whether it was three miles or ten miles. Over time, my intestines got used to the pounding, but I still suffered from extreme cramping and diarrhea during my races. Not good. 

Let me tell you now that a great way to improve your race time is to get rid of this problem.  

I credit my most recent PR to my properly functioning bowels. So if you have this problem, let's fix it so you can get a shiny new PR. 

First, what are the reasons behind runner's diarrhea?

1. The foot pounding, jostling, and repeated ka-clunk ka-clunking can irritate your bowels. 

2. Prolonged exercise directs blood away from the intestines to your muscles that are working extra hard, causing your bowels to not be able to properly process the remaining contents. 

3. Dehydration. It's cause and effect or symptom and cause. You get dehydrated and have diarrhea, which causes you to be more dehydrated. 

4. Foods you've eaten. Runners, especially distance runners, are constantly trying to determine how best to fuel their bodies during their running. If you eat too much fiber too close to a race, it might come barreling out. If you eat a type of energy gel that doesn't agree with you, you may experience diarrhea. If you drink a cup of coffee too close to race time, you may wind up needing to use the port-o-potty within the first hour of your race. 

5. Stress. Any time I have a game or race, I have to get in my nervous poop before the event. I thought it was just me, but apparently stress causes lots of people to experience nervous poops before a big event. 
So let's see what we can do to fix the problems:

1. Get more experience. The more running experience you have, the more your body will be able to handle all of the jostling and pounding. I have seen this in my own training. Now on short runs, my intestines don't complain at all, whereas eight months ago, I barely took a lap around the track before I knew that I would need to make a bathroom stop. Also, trying to increase mileage and speed gradually may help. Sudden jumps in either can irritate your bowels.

2. While you can't help that blood is being diverted from your intestines during long runs, you can leave those intestines with fewer contents to expel. This has been my main tool in cleaning my colon before a race:

Health Plus Super Colon Cleanse
Super Colon Cleanse contains: psyllium husk powder, senna powder, fennel seed, peppermint leaf, papaya leaf, rose hips, buckthorn bark, celery and acidophilus. Psyllium helps to absorb toxins in the colon by creating a spongy, gelantinous mass in the bowels. By swelling and absorbing fluids, it breaks down and moves waste matter stuck in the folds and crevices of the colon. A clean colon inhibits bacteria from surviving on human waste. Psyllium husk soothes the lining of the bowel and leaves a thin slippery film along the inner lining of the colon, which makes it easier for waste generated later to move along smoothly. Source

I take it the day before a race, starting in the morning, or if I am traveling, I take it the day before I am traveling to a race. It only takes me one or two doses (four capsules per dose) to get things moving. This has been my secret ingredient for bowel success in my last two races. We nicknamed it "colon blow" cause that's what it does. 

3. Stay hydrated. Get up in plenty of time the morning of your race to drink lots of water. Before my last race, I drank two glasses of water as soon as I woke up. Drinking water helps you poop. That's it. You have to take a PRP or a PRD (pre-race poop or pre-race dump). Some people like to drink coffee first thing, which provides the extra caffeine stimulant to get things moving. Before a race, I also drink a 5-hour energy drink which I try to take about an hour in advance to give my bowels time to react with a bathroom nearby.

Coach Joe English talks more about the PRD in this video. It's mostly a lot of poop jokes, but they sprinkle a little useful information in there. 

Season 2 - Episode 13 -- The Runs on the Run from Joe English on Vimeo.

4. Fuel properly and according to your needs. The great and frustrating thing about us is that we are all unique. What works for one person for fueling may not work for another. You may be sensitive to the caffeine in some GUs or the sugar in Gatorade. This is why our pre-race long runs are so important. It's a time to practice fueling as well as running. You may run better on Cliff bars and cinnamon bears. Another person may be able to only tolerate a peanut butter sandwich. Some other ideas are raisins, honey stingers, sport beans, granola bars, sports drinks, Shot Bloks, gummies, or whatever else you like and can tolerate while running. During a race, I drink whatever sports drink they provide, and I take GUs as needed. I drink water at the next aid station after taking a GU.

5. To prevent stress poops, try getting lots of sleep the week before your race. Do some yoga to relax. Lay out all of your clothes the night before the race, and set an extra alarm. Try to figure out what stresses you out most about an event and prepare for that aspect of the race, which hopefully will help you to have fewer stress poops. But actually, I'm fine with stress poops as long as it's not during a race. Before is good. During is bad. 

To close, I'd like to play Say the Dumbest (by which I mean Coolest) Thing Possible About Diarrhea. 




"Our children should not have diarrhea." Really, kids can die from diarrhea.
I just liked this one because it was old-school Soviet propaganda. Source