Repetitive strenuous exercise can cause our bodies to retaliate in very unladylike ways. It’s true that strenuous exercise, including running, may lead to injury, but it can also cause a host of other minor health issues, that can sometimes stop you dead in your tracks. Here are just a few of the little problems runners face and how to prevent them.
Runner’s Trots: This is something that many runners experience at some point in time; however, you may never hear about it in regular conversations, especially among women. Why? Because it has to do with something that no one likes to discuss (except for mothers of newborns), diarrhea! Runner’s trots is essentially the uncontrollable urge (and then proceeding to do so) to go “number 2”. Yes, I admit, this happens to the best of runners, but there are a few ways to decrease your chances of developing this bowel spasm. Make sure you are well-hydrated before a long run, because dehydration has been known to irritate the problem. Also, if you’re prone to the trots, avoid heavy meals, fibrous foods, fruit, caffeine, sugary foods, and dairy before your run. They can all irritate the GI track and leave you searching for a port-o-potty mid-run.
Side Stitches: That sharp pain you feel in your abdominal area, just under your ribs, is the unmistakable side stitch! Although most often experienced in novice runners, even seasoned runners get stitches every now and again. According to Runner’s World, side stitches are typically caused by cramping of the diaphragm. To stop the stitch, you can either walk until the pain goes away or press your fingers into the stitch, then inhale/exhale forcefully, while continuing to run. I have done this MANY times and, more often than not, it works! To avoid stitches, remember to breath deeply from your stomach during your run and avoid heavy drinking/eating 30 minutes prior to your run.
Blisters: I’ve had my share of blisters over the years and they always seem to pop up (no pun intended) when I least expect them. Blisters are essentially trapped water in between your skin, caused by the friction of your feet rubbing against your socks/shoes. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that they can be painful, but they are not a reason to stop running. For most blisters, you can cover them with a large band-aid, blister plaster, moleskin, or even surgical tape. Also, this would be a good time to check your socks and shoes to see if it’s time for a new pair.
Chafing: Chafing, when the skin becomes red and irritated, happens when our clothes don’t fit properly, causing the clothes to rub the skin over and over – and not in a good way. Sweat can further irritate the area. Chafing most often happens around the bra-line area, inner thighs, and underarms. To prevent this, make sure you wear clean, properly fitted clothes (not too loose, not too tight), preferably of the dryfit kind. If you do experience chafing (and you will know when it starts to burn in the shower!), rub a small amount of petroleum jelly or other anti-chafe product on the irritated skin.
Black Toenails: These are the result of bruising and a blood blister forming under the toenail, typically caused by the toes forcefully and repeatedly being pushed up against your running shoes. Your toes may do this for many reasons – your shoes may be too tight, your nails may be too long, the seams of your socks may be irritating you toes, etc. If you do notice your toe becoming black, immediately assess you shoe/sock situation. You may actually have to move up a size in shoe to accommodate this new, but temporary ailment. As for treatment, black toenails look ugly but they don’t always hurt. Many times it will naturally fade or the nail will fall off on it’s own and grow back. However, if your blood blister does become sensitive or appears to be getting worse, check with a doctor who will likely drain the blister for you.
Urinary Incontinence: Although I never really suffered from consistent UI (except for a brief time while running during my pregnancy), I know it is a common problem among female runners. UI is usually caused by a weak pelvic floor and can cause you to leak urine while running. To help prevent UI, you can strengthen your pelvic floor by doing Kegel exercises (that’s right, they are not just for the bedroom!). It’s also a good idea to avoid caffeinated drinks before running and to go to the bathroom right before you leave the house.
No runner is immune to these health issues, just like no runner is immune to injury. The key is to prevent these sidelining mishaps before they start.
Happy and Healthy Running!