Your race is in an hour, and you know you’ve gotta go. Here’s how to guarantee a timely Number 2.
On a perfect race morning, you’d wake up, have breakfast, and use the bathroom—at least once, maybe twice—and then head to your starting corral feeling great, not worrying whether you’ll have to stop along the way for an emergency.
But sometimes, your routine fails you. Maybe you’re traveling and in a different time zone, maybe your diet’s been a little off, or maybe you’ve just got a nervous stomach. Some mornings, you just can’t go, no matter how much you know it’s essential for a good run. Or, you know you have to head to your race soon, but you’re stuck wondering how to make yourself poop.
So what do you do now? We looked at the research and talked with Felice Schnoll-Sussman, M.D., a gastroenterologist at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and a finisher, to find out. Here’s what science says about how to get yourself to go.
1. Sip and Sit
Many of us swear by our at least one studyhas found that it does seem to induce “a desire to defecate.” (It’s unlikely that caffeine is responsible, because even decaf coffee had this effect.)to get our bowels moving—and although scientists aren’t sure exactly why coffee works this way,
But Schnoll-Sussman says that any warm beverage can help stimulate a bowel movement, including a cup of tea or even hot water. “The warm liquid acts as a vasodilator,” she says. “It widens blood vessels in the digestive system and helps increase blood flow and GI activity.”
Schnoll-Sussman advises runners to drink a hot beverage in the morning and then sit on the toilet for a while. “Just the act of sitting there for few minutes can bring on the urge to go, even if you don’t feel like you have to right away.”
2. Get Moving
Physical activity can bring on a bathroom break, which is one reason a warm-up can be so important before a race. “Before you head out the door for a hard workout, I would suggest exercising lightly to help stimulate a bowel movement,” Schnoll-Sussman says.
If you’re trying to unload in the comfort of your own home or hotel room, try jogging up and down the stairs or doing someor . Already at the race start? Warm up with some strides while you’re still near the porta-potties.
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3. Wake Up Earlier
“Make sure you’re getting up early enough on race morning to go through your whole morning routine, including time for the bathroom,” Schnoll-Sussman says. People racing in a different time zone, she adds, should try to stay as close to their body’s natural schedule as they can.
If you’re from New York and you’re racing in Portland, that might mean getting up and having your breakfast on East-Coast time—even if it’s a few hours before your race. On the other hand, if you’re a Californian racing Boston, you’ll already be waking up several hours earlier than you’re used to. “That’s a little bit trickier,” Schnoll-Sussman says, “but in this case it’s also important to wake up with plenty of time to spare, so that your body has extra time to digest your breakfast and feel the urge to go.”
4. Try a Massage
A UCLA study suggests that putting gentle pressure on the perineum—the area between your genitals and anus—may help break up and soften stools for people who have been suffering from constipation.
5. Or Glycerin Suppositories
Some runners confess to using glycerin suppositories on particularly desperate race mornings. But Schnoll-Sussman would not recommend this, especially if you have never tried one before.
“The time it takes for a suppository to take effect is very variable from person to person,” she says. “It could work in 15 or 20 minutes, or it could take several hours—so if you do it race morning, you risk having to start the race before it works.” If a runner did want to use one, Schnoll-Sussman would suggest using it the night before a race, or at least not trying it for the very first time on race morning.
6. Focus on Food
If you’re worried about taking a quick-fix supplement, or other methods just aren’t doing the trick, turn to foods like raspberries which have 8 grams of fiber per cup. Grab a handful of almonds on the go. The powerhouse nuts contain magnesium—which researchers found may help relieve constipation. Or, reach for the age-old cure of prunes. Packed with fiber, they’ve been proven to help you go. One studyfound that eating about 10 prunes every day for three weeks improved stool frequency, so adding them to your diet well before race day might help avert a crisis.
What to Know for Next Time
Getting enough fiber is important in the days and weeks before a race for keeping digestion regular and preventing constipation. But on race day, consuming more fiber than usual can cause diarrhea, so don’t eat (or drink) large amounts the morning of, especially if you’re not used to it.
drinking plenty of water can always help move things along,” Schnoll-Sussman says. Filling up on H2O the days before your race, and drinking that warm beverage first thing in the morning, is the best way to make sure you’re able to go when you need to.is also key—especially if you’re flying on a plane or otherwise traveling. “Constipation occurs when the stool is too dry to move through the body easily, so
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