Not the most pleasant of topics to be discussing, but this is something I’ve struggled with myself. It can be a taboo for many runners and some might even find it difficult to discuss with friends. We all remember the scene of Paula Radcliffe rushing to a port-a-loo just before winning another London marathon, this is something that impacts most runners.
So why do I need a pit stops while exercising?
For those of us who suffer, we might notice that this happens a few miles into a long run, usually where we’re at the furthest possible location from a bathroom. So why does it happen then? Apart from the inexplicable bad timing every time, this happens due to the jostling of your intestines, this reduces blood flow to the bowels as the body sends more blood to the exercising muscles, stimulates changes in intestinal hormones that speed up transit time, and alters absorption rate. Dehydration can worsen the problem so staying hydrated during a run is always important.
What about drinking before a run?
One of the causes for runners trots can be attributed to dehydration. Start drinking water earlier before a run. Especially when drinking water, it is important that you sip rather than gulp it down so you can give your body a chance to make the most of it.
Your best bet is to train your body to tolerate fluids and water. Start with small amounts of water during exercise for a week or two, then transition to diluted sports drinks, and then eventually to full-strength sports drinks. Or have plain water and mints or hard candies.
What about taking tablets to prevent diarrhea?
When all else fails, consult with your doctor about taking anti-diarrhea medicine, tablets such as Imodium, might work but always consult a doctor and don’t take it on a daily basis. Remember, taking Imodium without diarrhea can leave you constipated which is a totally different ball game.
Right, so how do I go about preventing this?
This will come down to a bit of trial and error on your part but there are a few general tips which I found online on active.com
- Try to avoid eating for at least two hours before you exercise – the presence of food in the stomach will make things worse or contribute to the problem.
- Try to avoid the intake caffeine and warm fluids as it is possible for this to speed up the movement of wastes through the intestines.
- Limit high-fiber foods in the days before a long race.
- Drink plenty of fluids. It is best to drink a liter of water an hour before your run, giving the excess fluid time to pass through, and start off well-hydrated.
- Be aware of your bowel habits and try to time your workouts for after such movement times.
- Before a hard workout, exercise lightly to help stimulate a bowel movement, poop, and then exercise hard.
- Eat foods that tend to be naturally constipating, such as bananas, white bread/bagels, white rice, and pasta
- Avoid foods that pass through the system quickly, such as apple juice, and foods with high fiber that can cause the need to defecate.
- Exercise with a bathroom nearby, such as at a gym
- For races, know where the toilets will be on the course
- Use the bathroom before a race.
- Design your training routes to include a bathroom. If you develop the need to go while exercising, you will be able to plan your route accordingly.
- If all else fails, consult a doctor
The good news is that for most people these issues are relatively minor. Having to make a stop at the port-a-loo before a race is completely normal. It only becomes a problem when your toilet stops are getting in the way of your run.
The bottom line is you are not alone with your concerns. Yet, your body is unique and you need to experiment with different food and exercise patterns to find a solution that brings peacefulness to your exercise program.