Stomach problems – the bane of every marathoner! We runners tend to have to deal with many unique complications and shitting just happens to be one of them. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in dealing with this.

Why This Happens?

When we run, there is a surge of hormones in our stomach lining due to all the bouncing that happens during a run. These hormones affect how often we need to shit and also the permeability of our stomach lining. All these factors combined causes the urge to shit midway during a run. Also blood flow is increased to the muscles – away from our stomach. The decrease of oxygenated blood flow to our stomach may sometimes cause indigestion (of our pre-race meal or gel intake) and hence the urge to defecate.

#1 Improve Your Running Form

Vertical oscillation is how much your body is bouncing upwards when you run. The lower your vertical oscillation, the less your body bounces and the less intestinal jostling there is. This will help lessen the likelihood of pooping. There is also an added bonus. A lower vertical oscillation means a more energy efficient run. Energy is spent pushing you forward instead of pushing you upwards. Many devices these days track vertical oscillation for example the Garmin forerunner 635 or the Garmin Running Dynamics Pod. Try imagining a ceiling an inch above your head when you run and try not to hit when running.

#2 Taper Your Fibre And Fat Intake

Reduce your fibre and fat intake before your are day. Fat slows down digestion. And while running, blood is drawn to your muscles away from your stomach. This may cause indigestion to happen and hence a mid porta-loo break. While fibre is great to keep your toilet habits regular, pre-race jitters and race-length workouts may just cause diarrhoea. So remember, avoid fatty foods like KFC Chicken and the cruciferous vegetable family such as broccoli, cauliflowers and bak choi.

#3 Watch Your Coffee Intake

Photo source: Habitat Coffee
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Many runners have a love-hate relationship with caffeine. While caffeine does give us a good kick to keep us high on alert during our runs, it can also cause our gut to go on overdrive. Coffee is associated with 2 other compounds – gastrin and cholecystokinin. These compounds speed up how fast things move through our gut. So make sure your espresso shot is taken at least an hour pre-race. This way, you have time to empty your bowels before race.

#4 Pre-Race Poop

Photo Credits: Wikipedia

The pre-race poop is actually really important. Try to schedule a pre-race poop. This way you till have less food in your gastrointestinal track. We all know blood is diverted away from our stomach when we run. Emptying your stomach means there won’t be indigestion and no mid-race poop.

#5 Slow Down Your Fuelling

Overwhelming your stomach with gels too quickly can cause gastrointestinal problems as well. With limited amount of blood flowing to your stomach to help with digestion, too much food quickly will cause indigestion and thus lead to pooping. Sip your gels slowly. You may take a quarter of a pack of a gel in 15 minutes intervals instead of an entire gel every hour.

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