Words by Julie DeVos
The whispers among friends, the silent googling, the missed training runs….let’s get it out in the open. Things happen when we start training and I’m not talking fitness gains, or increasing distance, or diabetes for that matter. I’m talking about those things that no one really speaks about. I’m just going to get it out in the open now. Let’s put our embarrassment and middle school giggles aside. I’m talking about, chafing, rubbing, tummy troubles, blisters, and black toenails. Now that we’ve got your attention, let’s get into the nitty gritty of how to deal with those less than pleasant but common experiences!
What is it?
Chafe happens anytime skin rubs together, or clothing (seams or material) has been rubbing on the skin for a prolonged period of time. Warm weather, sweating, and even colder temperatures can make it worse. OUCH!
Cover it up or Lube it up!
Any skin that rubs against other skin either needs to be lubed up or covered up! Spandex shorts that are long enough and won’t ride up work well for those of us that don’t have a thigh gap (most of us don’t btw). Seamless clothing works well for armpits and legs. For nipples, band aids or Nipguard work well to give added protection. Don’t let this happen to you!
Using something to lube up your skin also works well. Many athletes swear by Bodyglide, and it can be used in just about any place. If you’re running longer distances, carrying a little stick of chapstick (make sure it’s unscented and doesn’t contain menthol) can help you out in a pinch! Maybe just don’t borrow a friends….
Proper fit and materials
Find clothing that won’t ride up, is comfortable to wear and that are NOT made of cotton. Wet clothing takes chafing to a whole new level. When buying something new, give it a run around the store. Does it ride up? Do you feel anything potentially rubbing? Before race day, it’s best to run in those clothing items that you’ve run in many times before. You know how they feel and you’ll know what to expect.
This can really hurt, both during and after your race. Clean the area with gentle soap and water and pat dry as soon as you can. Let it air out if you can then apply something soothing to the area. Aloe vera or diaper rash creams work really well as they contain zinc oxide and are antibacterial. If the area is bleeding, follow the above advice and apply some pressure to stop the bleeding.
What is it?
Cramping, having to “go”, and the dreaded diarrhea. We’ve all heard the jokes, but it’s real thing. When we exercise our body sends blood to where it’s needed most, our working muscles and digestion doesn’t happen as quickly. There is also a lot of up and down movement from the act of running itself, shaking up our insides. Race day nerves can also play a role in stress hormones.
Eating more than 30 minutes before a race will help with working food through your system. Stay away from those foods that normally make you go and keep your pre-race meal super simple. Make sure to try it out before race day and keep it consistent. When eating or drinking while running, sip instead of gulp and take small bites. Use food that you’ve tried during your training runs, and you know how your body will react.
If you gotta go, you gotta go. There are always portable washrooms along a race course. When in training, as you increase your distances, plan a route that is close to places that you could pop into to use the restroom. This will also give you peace of mind. If it does happen during race day, find a bathroom if you can, and if you can’t, don’t worry, you’re not the only one! Bring a head to toe change of clothes with you to change into after the race. Who wants to stay in sweaty clothes anyways? You may also want to pack some wet wipes or a single one on you if you’re worried. If you know your tummy doesn’t do well when you run consider planning bathroom stops along the way and texting a friend or family member if something happens. They may be able to meet you along the course to swap out your skivvies.
What is it?
Fluid-filled sacs between the layers of the skin due to friction. It’s generally a combination of increased temperature, moisture, and friction. Sweat + running shoes + long distances = blisters.
Have a look at your feet after a training session. Are there any areas on your feet (usually where skin contacts the running shoe) that you notice red spots? This is where blisters will form when kept in the shoes over a longer time/distance. Make sure on race day you run in the same shoes and socks you’ve been training in; you know how your feet behave in your shoes. If you are prone to blisters or you have hot spots currently, consider getting a new pair of proper fitting comfortable shoes and proactively treat those areas before blisters happen. There are a variety of aids you can use to help prevent blisters, powders, taping affected areas, and blister balms. Again, Bodyglide works well for this too. Try out what works best for you during your training runs, so you’ve got a plan in place.
Prevention is far better than treating them! But we’ve all had a blister, so what do you do? If the blister is still in tact, you’ll want to keep it protected and from tearing. Once a blister tears, you are more vulnerable to infection. Wash the area gently with soap and lukewarm water to get the sweat and salt off. Gently dry off and apply a dressing – one that won’t stick to the blister. If the blister is already broken, gently wash it and apply an antiseptic to help prevent infection.
Having a pair of sandals or flip flops will allow you not to have to put your feet back into shoes and will reduce friction. Plus, it feels SO good to take your shoes off afterward! Just be sure to follow the above directions to prevent infection.
What is it?
Slight bleeding and bruising underneath your toenails. It’s usually caused by repetitive trauma to the nail bed. Your toe hitting the front of your shoe or the top of the toenail hitting the roof of your shoe.
Make sure your shoes fit correctly! Too small shoes are the primary reason our toenails turn a lovely shade of midnight. Running shoes need to be about a half size larger than our normal shoes. If you’re not sure, have your runners fitted and take them to the treadmill for a test drive. Also, make sure your toenails are kept short to prevent them from hitting the front of your shoe or catching on your socks.
Most often they heal on their own however if you have swelling and redness make sure you head to the doctor. You may need to have your nail bed drained. This sounds gross, but it’s a simple procedure, and you’ll feel instantly better. As your nail grows (and sometimes begins to separate) it’s important to keep your nails trimmed. Eventually, it will grow out.