Embarrassing Running Problems

Embarrassing Running Problem #1: Black or Lost Toenails
Some runners, especially those training for long-distance events, can suffer from black toenails. It's actually easy to prevent this unsightly problem.

  • Symptoms: First, the toenail appears blackened (caused by bruising under the nail), and then it eventually falls off.
  • Causes: Black toenails are caused by constant rubbing of your toe against the front of your shoe. A blood blister forms under the nail, and the blister can't breathe, so it takes a lot longer to heal. Marathoners or runners who do a lot of downhill running are the most likely candidates for black toenails. You're more likely to get black toenails if you run in warmer weather because your feet swell more when it's hot.
  • Prevention: Make sure that you're wearing the correct sneaker size, if you have never been professional fit for running shoes, ask your Fleet Feet Sports Fit Specialist to fit you.  Trim your toenails, and keep your feet as dry as possible during runs. It helps to wear good not cotton or wool socks.
  • Treatment: It's best to leave a black toenail alone, as long as the pain is manageable. The pain is usually worst on the first day and then lessens each day after. The damaged part of the nail is gradually pushed off, and a new nail will replace it. Don't force the old nail off -- it will fall off on its own. If you notice redness and infection, see a doctor.

Embarrassing Running Problem #2: Leaky Bladder

Female runners sometimes have problems with urinary incontinence, especially if they've given birth. Men can leak urine too, but the problem is more common in women.

  • Symptoms: You're running and you suddenly realize your running shorts are wet with urine. The leakage can be just a trickle or a stream.
  • Causes: When you’re pelvic and sphincter muscles are strong, they can handle the extra pressure from a cough, sneeze, exercise, or laugh. But when those muscles become stretched and weak – which often happens because of pregnancy and childbirth -- that sudden pressure can push urine out of the bladder. The muscles can also weaken with age, although that's not true for everyone.
  • Treatment: An effective treatment for incontinence, Kegel exercises help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and don't require any equipment.
  • Extra body weight also puts extra pressure on your bladder. By losing weight, you may be able to relieve some of that pressure and regain your bladder control.
  • If you've tried these strategies and you're still having problems with incontinence, talk to your doctor. Severe cases may require surgery.

Embarrassing Running Problem #3: Runner's Trots (Diarrhea) and/or Gas

  • Running is good for maintaining regular bowel movements but, of course, sometimes it happens at inopportune moments. Many runners experience bouts of diarrhea and GI distress during and after running, so if you've ever dealt with it, you're definitely not alone.
  • Combining the constant jostling of your stomach fluids, the increased intake of air as you breathe hard, and many healthy foods that are important to better race performances means that gas is inevitable during at least some if not most of your workouts.
  • If you can get used to the sensation, then you will be fine. Most of the time, you can just ignore it and go about your workout. If you are getting distracted or cramped, then you may need to experiment to find what foods tend to make you gassier so that you can avoid those foods immediately preceding a race or a speed workout.
  • Symptoms: You may experience cramping, flatulence, diarrhea during or after running.
  • Causes: The cause may be dietary in nature or due to lack of blood flow during digestion (since the blood is being pulled to your muscles). You may also have Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or lactose intolerance, the effects of which are enhanced by exercise. Dehydration and low electrolyte levels may also lead to diarrhea.

Prevention: This issue is more common in novice runners, so it may disappear as you become more fit. The following strategies may also help:

  • Avoid high-fiber foods (fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains) and coffee/tea before working out, stay hydrated.
  • Consume nuun during long runs to maintain electrolyte levels.
  • Choose foods that are naturally constipating, such as bananas, plain bagels, rice, oatmeal and pasta.
  • Make sure you don't eat at least two hours before running, so you have time to digest.
  • Try to keep track of what you eat before your runs, so you can figure out possible triggers. For example, some people find that dairy products cause diarrhea.
  • Plan your long runs along routes where you know bathrooms are accessible. If you face this problem on race day, don't worry. Most races, especially longer ones such as marathons, offer plenty of port-a-johns at the start and along the race course. In most cases, you can find them near the water stops.
  • If you try different tactics and nothing seems to work, you may want to consider a medical check-up for irritable bowel syndrome.

Embarrassing Running Problem #4: Sore or Bloody Nipples

  • Symptoms: Some runners, usually men, get chaffed or bleeding nipples, which can be extremely painful.
  • Causes: When men run, their nipples are constantly rubbing against their shirt. Over the course of a run (especially a long one), this sensitive area can be rubbed to the point of bleeding. Because women wear tight-fitting sports bras, this shouldn't be an issue for them.
  • Prevention: Some men learn the hard way how painful it can be, but it's actually very easy to avoid that problem. Generously apply a lubricant like Body Glide to the nipple area before a long run and you should be fine. Some men will also wear products such as Nip Guards or Band-aids to protect the nipples. Also, for longer runs, make sure that you wear a synthetic-material (Dri-Fit, not cotton) shirt closest to your body. Cotton shirts will cause chafing. Women should make sure their sports bras are not cotton. For longer runs, both men and women should also apply Body Glide to any areas where there may be rubbing (inner thighs, under arms) to avoid chafing.

Embarrassing Running Problem #5: Uncomfortable Underwear

  • While some runners love to talk about their running clothes, they become a little more reserved when it comes to undergarments and -- as a result -- suffer in silence wearing uncomfortable underwear. The "synthetic material/no cotton" rule also applies to underwear. Make sure you wear tight-fitting, non-cotton underwear so any moisture is wicked away and you avoid chafing. Most uncomfortable underwear issues can be avoided by following that rule.
  • Some running shorts do have "built-in" underwear. It is perfectly fine to wear just these shorts -- you don't have to wear another pair of underwear underneath them. Some runners, especially men, prefer to wear spandex under their shorts instead of underwear. It's really a matter of personal preference, so you just have to figure out what works for you.

 Embarrassing Running Problem #6: Runny Nose

  • It's completely normal for runners to have runny noses while they're running in the winter. In the cold weather, mucus and secretion production increases in your nose to warm and humidify the cold, dry air you're breathing in. In addition, when we're exercising, our nose's mucous membranes produce more mucous than when we're resting. Some of those excess secretions will run out your nose.
  • Using a bandana or neck gaiter to cover your nose may help warm the air a little before it hits your nose. You can also try to breathe in more through your mouth (which you should be doing anyway). Beyond that, make sure you're prepared with something to deal with the constant dripping. I usually like to run with some tissues in my pocket. A bandana (same one you use to cover your nose), your sleeve, or running gloves could also do the trick. Many running gloves even have a thumb made of different material than the rest of the glove, such as terrycloth, that's intended for wiping a runny nose or sweat on your face.

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