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Cross Training For Runners

How to Empty Bowels Before Running – The “Poop Before a Run” Guide

10 Mins read

In an ideal world, our mornings would unfold like a perfectly choreographed routine: rise from bed, freshen up, enjoy a nourishing breakfast, and gracefully answer the call of nature before embarking on our running adventures.

But alas, life loves to throw us a curveball when we least expect it.

We’ve all been there—standing at the precipice of a long morning run or an important race, desperately hoping to avoid any unwelcome pit stops along the way.

Fear not, for I have some tricks up my sleeve to help you “speed things up,” if you catch my drift.

Now, here’s the beauty of it all: these steps I’m about to share are not some mystical potions or elaborate rituals.

No, they are simple, natural activities that you already engage in on a daily basis.

In fact, they are so natural that they may even encourage your body to cooperate and grant you the sweet relief you seek.

You might be wondering, “But how do you know all this?” Well, let me tell you—I’ve delved into the depths of research, scoured countless studies, and spoken to experts who have dedicated their time to unraveling the mysteries of our digestive systems.

You see, when it comes to making yourself poop, science has got your back. These tried-and-true methods have been recommended by researchers who have explored the intricacies of our bodily functions. So, my friend, trust in the power of knowledge as we embark on this journey to help you create the perfect pre-run routine.

Let’s get things moving, shall we?

Why Running Makes You Poop?

There’s a saying that goes, “Everybody poops,” and when it comes to us runners, well, let’s just say we have a special relationship with the bathroom.

If you’ve never experienced the sudden urge to halt your run and find the nearest restroom, consider yourself fortunate. Either you possess an iron stomach or your running journey has yet to reach that “interesting” phase.

But fear not, for you are about to enter the world of running’s not-so-secret secret: the unavoidable dance between miles and bathroom breaks.

You see, running has a way of stirring things up inside us—quite literally. It’s like a magical potion that sets our digestive system in motion.

Countless runners can attest to the frequency of these toilet emergencies, and trust me, it’s not just a casual conversation topic for us. In fact, surveys have revealed that a staggering 30 to 90 percent of runners have experienced some form of gastrointestinal distress. It’s practically a running joke in our community, pun unintended.

But let’s dig deeper and uncover the mystery behind running’s ability to induce such urgent bodily functions. The answer is quite simple, really.

When you hit the pavement or hop on that treadmill, your body goes into motion, and so do your intestines and colon. It’s like a synchronized dance where every stride propels things along, making it essential to address any “business” before embarking on your running adventure.

Ignoring the call of nature before a run is a risky game, my friend. It’s like playing roulette with your digestive system, increasing the chances of an unexpected pit stop in the middle of your workout.

But wait, there’s more! When you engage in running or any vigorous exercise, blood flow takes a detour away from your gut and redirects itself toward your hardworking muscles.

The longer and more intense your run becomes, the greater the impact on your gut’s functionality. It’s no wonder that research has uncovered the prevalence of diarrhea and rectal bleeding among endurance athletes, with runners being nearly twice as likely to experience such discomfort.

Now, don’t let these revelations discourage you from lacing up your shoes and hitting the road. Running is a beautiful and transformative journey, but it’s important to be aware of the quirks that come with it.

Bowel Movements – Running While Constipated

One of the most common problems is constipation. This not only limits the number of daily bowel movements but also causes undue straining and time spent on the toilet.

You might be constipated if you have

  • Fewer than three poops a week
  • Pain or difficulty while defecating
  • Lumpy, hard, or dry stools

The frequency of your bowel movements depends on many variables, such as

  • When you eat
  • What you eat
  • Your workout habits
  • Your sleep habits
  • Your gut bacteria health level
  • What environment you’re in
  • And so much more

How To Empty Bowels Before Running

Let’s dive right into some strategies that will help you conquer the pre-run bathroom situation and ensure you’re ready to make the most out of your runs. Say goodbye to any worries of unexpected pit stops and hello to a smooth and uninterrupted running experience. Here’s what you can do:

1.     Wake Up Earlier

Picture this—it’s race day, and you’re feeling the excitement and adrenaline pumping through your veins. But wait, there’s something else making its presence known—the urge to use the bathroom. It’s a scenario that many runners are familiar with. That’s why it’s crucial to give yourself ample time before hitting the pavement.

Wake up at least an hour before your run or race, allowing enough time to go through your entire morning routine. This includes hydrating, having a cup of coffee or tea, enjoying a light snack, stretching, and, of course, a visit to the bathroom. Rushing through these steps is a surefire way to disrupt the harmony of your morning ritual.

Additional resource – CBD oil for runners

Have Your Coffee

While the exact link between coffee and bowel movements remains somewhat of a mystery, research suggests that caffeine can have a stimulating effect on the colon. It’s classified as cathartic, meaning it can trigger contractions in the colon, acting as a natural laxative for many individuals. But here’s the surprising part—caffeine may not be the sole culprit behind this phenomenon.

Even decaf coffee has shown a similar effect, leaving researchers scratching their heads. So, if you’re not a fan of coffee, don’t worry. Any hot liquid, like hot tea with a splash of lemon or a plain cup of tea, might do the trick.

Warm liquids have a way of dilating blood vessels in the digestive tract, promoting increased circulation in the area. And if a pre-run hot drink alone isn’t enough to get things moving, consider performing a few moves near the bathroom—a gentle jog in place, some light stretching, or even some squats to nudge your digestive system into action.

Warm Up Indoor

A proper warm-up is not only crucial for getting your heart pumping and muscles ready, but it may also have an unexpected benefit—increasing the likelihood of a pre-run bathroom visit. So before you head out, engage in a dynamic warm-up routine.

Picture yourself doing walking lunges, jumping jacks, inchworms, and scorpions, or even jogging up and down the stairs for a few minutes. You can even do laps around your house or block until you feel ready to “go.” Just remember to keep the intensity light and listen to your body.

As long as the activity is enough to dilate your blood vessels, you’re on the right track. If you’re about to race and find yourself near the porta-potties, incorporate a series of strides into your warm-up routine. It’s a convenient way to prepare your muscles and give yourself that extra bathroom opportunity before the race begins.

Mind Your Fiber

When it comes to improving your bowel function, fiber is your best friend. It adds bulk to your stool and promotes regularity.

Insoluble fiber, specifically, is the indigestible part of food that passes through your digestive system largely intact. Research suggests that adults should aim to consume around 24 to 38 grams of fiber per day.

You can find insoluble fiber in various sources such as white grains, vegetables, nuts, and fruits. However, it’s important to note that introducing a high amount of fiber all at once may cause discomfort like cramping or gas, especially if your body isn’t accustomed to it.

So gradually incorporate fiber-rich foods into your diet to allow your system to adjust. And if you’re not a big fan of veggies, don’t worry! There are alternative options like juices or vegetable blend supplements that can provide you with the fiber you need.

Additional resource – Probiotics For Runners 

Stress Less

Let’s talk about the impact of stress on your bowel movements and how it can contribute to constipation, especially before a race.

The brain and digestive system have a fascinating connection, and when stress enters the picture, it can throw off your bowel habits. It’s like a twisted dance between your mind and your gut.

Imagine this: You’re standing at the starting line of a race, heart pounding, adrenaline rushing through your veins. Your body is gearing up for action, ready to tackle the challenge ahead.

But amidst all the excitement, there’s a sneaky culprit lurking in the shadows—stress. Yes, stress can sabotage your bathroom routine and leave you feeling backed up.

You see, when stress enters the scene, your body switches into fight or flight mode. It’s a survival mechanism designed to help you face imminent danger.

But here’s the catch: When your body is focused on fighting or fleeing, your digestive system takes a back seat. The signals that normally prompt a smooth bowel movement get disrupted, and you’re left feeling constipated.

But here’s the twist—constipation itself can also be a source of stress. It’s a frustrating cycle where the more difficult it becomes to have a bowel movement, the more stressed you feel. And the more stressed you feel, the harder it becomes to poop. It’s like a never-ending loop that can leave you feeling stuck.

So what’s the solution? It’s time to take a chill pill—figuratively, of course. Relaxation is the key. Pressuring your body to poop won’t work; in fact, it might have the opposite effect. Instead, focus on reducing stress and creating a calm environment for your mind and body to thrive.

One effective way to combat stress, especially those pre-race jitters, is to identify and eliminate any stressors in your life. It could be as simple as taking a few minutes each day for meditation, practicing deep breathwork, or incorporating some soothing yoga into your routine.

Certain yoga poses, like gentle twists or forward folds, can help release tension in your belly and rectum, providing relief and easing the path to a successful trip to the bathroom.

Research has shown that mindfulness practices and relaxation techniques can have a positive impact on your digestive system and overall well-being. So, take a moment to pause, let go of stress, and give your body the space it needs to find its natural rhythm.

Additional resource – Ice bath for runners

Try A Laxative

In some cases, taking an over-the-counter medication before a run or big race isn’t a bad idea.

Some OTC laxatives help stimulate bowel movement by squeezing the intestine.

Standard options include

Or any OTC medicine with compounds such as:

  • Magnesium hydroxide
  • Magnesium citrate
  • Polyethylene glycol
  • Sodium phosphate
  • Lactulose
  • Bisacodyl

But here’s the little disclaimer. Some laxatives may end up causing unwanted side effects—just like any other drug.

These, at the right dose, should be enough to prevent constipation but have too much, and you will end up with a bad case of bloating, then diarrhea.

What’s more?

Opting for a healthy diet that contains lots of healthy natural fiber is the way to go, even if you decide to take a supplement.

Try A Massage

Researchers at UCLA have delved into the fascinating realm of perineal massages, that delicate area nestled between your genitals and your anus. Now, it might seem a little strange at first, but bear with me. This research has uncovered some interesting findings that might just relieve your constipation woes.

Here’s the scoop: Applying gentle pressure to specific points in the perineum can work wonders in soothing constipation. It’s like discovering hidden treasure on your body’s map—an oasis of relief awaits at the touch of your fingertips.

But how exactly do you embark on this unusual journey? First things first, hygiene matters. So, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly. Once you’re ready, use your index and middle finger to gently press upward on the perineal skin, focusing on those pressure points. It’s like your fingers become the heroes of your constipation saga, working their magic to stimulate the right areas.

Now, let’s talk pulses. No, not the racing heartbeats you experience during a marathon. I’m talking about gentle, rhythmic movements. Apply pressure for about five to ten seconds, release, and repeat. It’s like a dance of relief, a symphony of fingertip maneuvers that may just bring you the liberation you seek.

But hold on, I understand that not everyone may feel comfortable with this hands-on approach. That’s where reflexology steps in like a trusty sidekick. Reflexology believes that trigger points are scattered throughout our bodies, interconnected like a web of relief. By applying pressure to specific areas, you can stimulate corresponding organs and systems, including your digestive system.

Squat To Poop

Let’s talk about technique, , because it turns out that the way you sit on the porcelain throne can make a world of difference.

Imagine this: You’re in the wild, exploring nature, and you come across a majestic creature. It’s the squat, a posture that changes the very anatomy of your rectum muscles and lifts the part of your colon that’s responsible for smooth sailing in the bathroom. It’s like nature’s secret code for effortless bowel movements.

The closer you can get to a full squat, the better. Picture yourself gracefully lowering your body down, aligning it with the natural forces that guide your bodily functions. It’s like tapping into your inner caveman or cavewoman, embracing the primal wisdom that our bodies have known for ages.

Now, don’t worry. You don’t have to actually perch on the edge of your toilet seat like a circus performer. That might lead to some unwanted acrobatics. Instead, let me introduce you to a simple yet ingenious solution: the humble stool. No, not the kind you sit on, but the kind you place under your feet.

By elevating your knees with a sturdy stool, you create a simulated squatting position that sets the stage for bowel liberation. The higher the stool, the closer you are to achieving the optimal angle for a smooth release. Aim for a position where your knees are at least higher than your lower belly, creating a harmonious alignment of your internal gears.

But hey, don’t just take my word for it. Researchers at the Ohio State University have conducted studies on this very topic. And guess what? They found that using a toilet stool, just like we described, improved bowel movements in over two-thirds of participants. That’s a staggering success rate! Not only that, but 90 percent of the participants experienced less strain during their bowel movements. Talk about a victory for comfort and efficiency.

Now, here’s where it gets even more exciting. You have the power to experiment with different positions. Lean forward or backward, sway a little to the left or to the right. It’s like finding your sweet spot, the unique combination of angles and movements that works best for you. Embrace the freedom to explore and discover what brings you the utmost relief.

How to Empty Bowels Before Running – The Conclusion

There you have it! If you’re looking for ways to take care of constipation before you go out for a run, then today’s post should be enough to get you started on the right foot. The rest is up to you.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.

Keep training strong.

David D.

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