How To Poop Before A Run:

5 Tips To Empty Your Bowels Before A Workout

How To Poop Before A Run is not a subject most people don’t discuss. In an ideal world, as soon as you wake up in the morning and get ready for your run, you’d be ready to use the bathroom and empty your bowels before running. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than having to poop while running, and runner’s trots or runner’s diarrhoea are so named for a reason—running stimulates the bowels and makes you have to poop.

However, your body and your running schedule aren’t always perfectly aligned, and sometimes you sit on the toilet before your workout and wait, and wait, and wait.

You look at your watch and realize you have to get out the door for your run—or worse, the starting gun is going to go off soon for your race.

In these cases, knowing how to poop before a run or workout would be very handy and could save you from dodging into a Port-a-Potty (or woods!) mid-workout.

It’s not always possible to speed Mother Nature along, but if you’re wondering how to poop before a run, keep reading for some tips on how to empty your bowels before running.

Why does Running make you Poop more?

Running doesn’t always cause you to poop, but it does mean that your bowels are moving faster. Exercise stimulates your internal digestive system, which makes the upper gastrointestinal tract move more. The increased movement in that area = an increased risk of pooping.

Your body also redirects blood away from your digestive system to feed other areas when you exercise, which can spark diarrhoea. And if you drink a lot of water during a run or workout, that can soften your stools and make it easier for them to pass through your body.

Interestingly, being nervous about having to poop during a long run might actually make you have to poop. However, it may also lead to the opposite problem of constipation. This is because running decreases blood flow which can then contribute to either extreme digestive issues.

What To Do If You Are Constipated Before Running

If you’re constipated before a race or workout, it can be especially difficult to make yourself poop before running because it will involve more stimulation to empty your bowels on command so to speak.

What causes constipation in runners and how can you prevent constipation before a race?

Constipation can result from low motility of the GI tract, and it increases stool transit time, which refers to the length of time it takes for contents of the digestive tract to travel through the intestines and colon and be expelled as stool. 

Constipation can make bowel movements infrequent, painful, and difficult. This is because stool is typically harder and more compact due to the extended time it sits in the colon, where water is reabsorbed from the stool back into the body, drying it out.

Many factors can contribute to constipation in runners, including, but not limited to, dehydration, a low-fibre diet, stress, and certain medications and medical conditions. 

Gut motility directly affects transit time, so factors that alter gut motility, such as the central nervous system, gut secretions and enzymes, nutrient content in the food, and the gut microbiota and their metabolic byproducts can all contribute to constipation as well.

A sedentary lifestyle is also a major risk factor for constipation, though, by definition, running mitigates this risk. However, runners who are injured or have to take a few days off, or if alter their exercise routine, can definitely suffer from temporary constipation or difficulty pooping before running. 

How To Poop Before A Run Or Workout

In general, our bodies are fairly regular in that if you’re eating your meals and snacks at approximately the same time every day, you’ll find you also end up pooping around the same time every day.

Therefore, hopefully, you can “train” your bowels to either allow you to relieve yourself before your usual workout time or ensure they’re at least quiet and calm during your run so you can focus on running your route rather than running to the nearest bathroom.

The best way to poop before a run or workout is by being consistent with your schedule. Keeping the same routine for eating and exercising should help your body develop its predictable pattern of bowel movements.

It’s also really important to make sure your diet supports healthy bowel movements. You want to get at least 25-30 grams of fibre every day, although more is better.

Examples of foods high in fibre include legumes like beans and lentils, vegetables, bran and certain whole grains, and avocados. It’s also important to be adequately hydrated, as dehydration is one of the primary causes of constipation in runners.

How To Avoid Having To Poop While Running

So, now we have an understanding of why you might need to poop during your race, here’s what you can do to prevent it.

Do Some Detective Work

It’s time to embrace your inner Sherlock Holmes. A food journal is a great way of helping to identify which foods in your diet might be acting as a trigger. No two runners are alike but there are certain foods you should pay close attention to. Alcohol and coffee are frequent causes of GI.

Foods which are high in fibre are also common culprits. Studies have shown that triathletes who had a diet which was high in fibre were more likely to encounter gastrointestinal problems. 

Start by removing cereals from your diet. If that is not helping then move on to whole grains, vegetables and fruits. You don’t want to remove these healthy fibres from your diet completely, but eliminating them three days before you are competing can help to stop fibre-related GI problems.

Finally, many people are sensitive to dairy. Try removing milk, cream, cheese, and other dairy-related products. In particular, you should be looking at what you are eating the night before your runs. If you see a recurring food or drink then try taking it out for a week or two. 

Eat Earlier

It takes time for your last pre-race meal to pass through your body. If you are finding the need to go mid-run then try shifting your main pre-run meal further back. This will give your body more time to digest the food and move it through your intestine. 

In conjunction with moving your meal time back, try reducing the size of your meal. A smaller meal will lead to less stress on your intestine when running.

Reduce The Jarring Of Your Intestine

As mentioned above one of the causes of GI is the constant jostling of the intestine. While this jostling can’t be completely eliminated it can be reduced by improving your running form.

The way to do this is to work on how much your body is moving up and down as you run. Try and picture about one inch above your head an invisible ceiling.

As you are running try not “break through the ceiling”. By shortening this vertical oscillation you can reduce the amount of movement in the intestines.

Increase Eccentric Training Into Your Workouts

Another way to improve your running form, and reduce intestinal jarring, is to increase eccentric training at the gym. Eccentric training can be thought of as the down part of leg exercises.

When you are doing lunges or squats in the gym, slow down when you are in the downward motion of the exercise. Eccentric exercises both lengthen and strengthen your muscles. This in turn means that your body does drop as far for each foot stride.

Do A Warm-up Run

If you find that you are constantly needing a bathroom break during training then you may need to re-organize your route. Start your training runs with a trip once around the block. 

This should be sufficient to start getting your bowels moving. Stop back and home to do your business, then head out to finish your training run. If you know there is going to be a public bathroom near the start of your training route (Hello Starbucks!) then this can work just as well.

Go for a light warm-up before the starting whistle. This light jog will get the blood flowing and the bowels moving. Then make good use of the port-a-loos. Remember to allow yourself enough time for this pre-race ritual.

Have A Light Snack Or Small Drink

A light jog is not the only way to start your bowels moving. When we eat or drink something it’s a signal to our body to push out what is already in the intestine.

This is called the gastrocolic reflex. Take advantage of this reflex by having a small glass of water or a bite to eat before the run. Don’t overdo it.

Filling up on too much food will just make your mid-run bathroom break all that much more urgent. But a small amount of food can do wonders to get your bowels moving.

5 Tips On How To Empty Your Bowels Before Running

Even if you’re eating enough fibre and drinking enough water, we all have days where we can’t poop before our workout. Whether you’re running earlier than usual, ate something unfamiliar, didn’t sleep well, seem dehydrated, are travelling, have a race, or have to rush out the door, your body might not be ready to empty your bowels before running. 

1. Wake Up Earlier

Rushing yourself can sometimes make matters worse because stressing about not pooping can make it even harder to poop. If you’re habitually struggling to poop before your workout in the morning, try waking up earlier, having your coffee or tea, and walking around as you get ready for the day for at least 30 minutes to give your bowels time to wake up.

2. Drink Your Coffee

Your cup of coffee won’t just help you feel more alert and energized for your workout, but it can also make you poop. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to be the caffeine in coffee that has the laxative effect.

Therefore, the good news for runners who don’t like coffee is that any hot beverage—including tea or hot water with lemon—seems to have the same effect. Hot liquids increase circulation and cause vasodilation in the digestive tract. This can increase peristalsis.

3. Do Some Exercise

Exercise is one of the best ways to make yourself poop before a run or workout because it increases blood flow and encourages contractions of the intestines. 

After all, we all know how you might not need to poop in the slightest and then as soon as you start running, you feel like you’re in dire straits to use the bathroom.

For this reason, one of the best strategies for how poop before a run or workout is to do your warm-up or light callisthenics inside as you wait around to use the toilet.

4. Massage Your Belly and Groin

Manually massaging your lower belly can help stimulate colonic contractions to help expel stool along so you can poop. There is also evidence to suggest that applying gentle pressure on your perineum —the region between your anus and genitals—can stimulate the urge to poop.

5. Drink Prune Juice

Most people aren’t rushing to guzzle prune juice, but it’s a good option to have on hand when you’re looking for how to poop before a run or workout.

Prunes contain fibre and sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that acts as a natural laxative because it draws water into the bowels, which bulks up the stool.

How To Avoid Having To Poop While Running  Wrap-Up

If the above doesn’t work for you then there may be other issues at play. Consult with your doctor to see if there may be other reasons why you are having control of your bowel movements. 

In particular, if you see blood when you poop, your GI doesn’t stop when you finish running, or you are rapidly losing weight, then you need to consider medical attention.

The need to poop is in general a completely normal reaction to the physical changes that running has on the body. By adapting your diet, running style and pre-run routine you should be able to avoid an embarrassing poop pit-stop next time you compete.


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