Running Trots: The Gastrointestinal Woes of Long-Distance Runners
It’s a common nightmare for all long-distance runners: as you pound the pavement, making good time, you start to feel a rumble in your guts. Ignoring it, you push on, only for the rumble to intensify until you’re desperately clenching your butt-cheeks to avoid disaster. Welcome to the running trots, a gastrointestinal complaint that almost all distance runners experience, but few are willing to talk about.
What Causes the Trots?
According to experts, there are several factors that contribute to this unpleasant phenomenon. The up and down motion of running, combined with the force of your feet hitting the road, can stimulate the bowels. A lack of blood flow to the GI tract, as it is diverted to the muscles needed for running, may also be a factor. Dehydration can also play a role.
In reality, it’s likely that a combination of these factors, alongside diet, your body’s familiarity with long runs, and the intensity of your workout, all contribute to your bowels wanting to empty themselves somewhere around mile thirteen.
How to Deal (Without Dying of Embarrassment)
Unfortunately, the running trots doesn’t disappear over time. Every runner is bound to experience it occasionally, even after their hundredth marathon. So, it’s essential to learn how to deal with the issue without dying of embarrassment.
First of all, you need to relax. Stress and anxiety can trigger gastrointestinal problems, especially during activities that are known for causing it. Take deep breaths, center yourself, and realize that all runners experience the trots. Nobody is going to judge you for it. Try to know in advance where the rest stops are so you can plan to use the bathroom and avoid having to relieve yourself in public arenas or televised events.
Developing a system for relieving yourself before your run is also crucial. When training for a marathon, get into the habit of unloading your bowels before starting the race. While it may not prevent all the GI problems your long-distance run can induce, the less that’s in there at the start, the less that will force its way out during the race.
It is possible to combat the problem with a bit of preparation. Constipation is an uncomfortable but effective solution to runner’s trots. For a few days before a big race, eat plenty of high-fiber foods such as leafy vegetables, potatoes, white rice, white bread, etc. Nothing will be moving down there.
When you are running in a race, it isn’t always feasible to make sure a bathroom is nearby. If you gotta go, you gotta go. Making sure you go before the race could work, and at least make you less likely to unload in the middle of it. But otherwise, plan your runs on routes with public toilets along the way. Or run in a gym, or at home on a treadmill.
Everybody Does It – Especially Runners
In the end, the running trots are a very human, normal problem, and runners are tragically familiar with it. When it happens to you, consider it a rite of passage!
Long-distance running is an excellent form of exercise that benefits your body and mind, but it can also cause some gastrointestinal issues. The running trots can be an uncomfortable and embarrassing problem, but it’s also a very common one. Understanding what causes it and how to deal with it will help you enjoy your runs without worrying about embarrassing moments. So, don’t let the running trots hold you back, go out and run like you always do!