Bodily Functions on the Run


I want to gather as many personal anecdotes regarding complications of bodily functions and completing workouts or races. I also want to hear about your “cures” and advice. This is a scientific and not-so-scientific research project of mine. It is stimulated by actual events in my life, my brother’s life, friends and the many questions I get in this arena. 

I hope you will participate. If you wish to remain anonymous so that your indiscretions won’t be discovered by certain parties, we’ll do all we can to honor that.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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15 Responses to Bodily Functions on the Run

  1. david says:

    On race days, I make sure I go to the bathroom at least twice before a race. This usually involves as soon as I get up and then after a small breakfast. I hope to hear more about this subject!

  2. For most people it seems having a little “something” tends to stimulate movements. Warm fluids seem to be a favorite… of course, coffee leading the list. The more predictable you can make things the better for sure!

  3. Jimmy Holub says:

    Urine vs. Sweat

    It has taken some time for me to experiement with my body, but I have gotten better at the timing and quantity of hydration before runs and races. One side-effect that I have experienced both during and after periods of heavy sweating (no matter the activity or inactivity!) is a slowing of the collection of urine in the bladder. Is this the major reason why so many people can go a whole marathon (sometimes over 5 hours!), drinking all the way, and not use the portapotties on the side of the road, nor at the finish line? FYI, all discussion below is relative to myself running at the reference pace of my 10k race pace (currently approximately 6:30).

    Scenario 1. I have found that, while in a state of no or little sweating, if I drink more than about 8oz or more of water about 20 minutes or more before a run, then I will collect an annoying amount of urine in my bladder. If at all possible, I use the restroom to rid myself of the urine before the run. I drink to ensure that I have enough water, being sure to urinate the excess before running. I rarely need to urinate during or immediately following runs in temperature 90degF or higher, possibly due to sweating.

    Scenario 2. If I am already in a state of moderate or heavy sweating while I drink the water before a run, then I rarely need to urinate before running. I rarely need to urinate immediately afterward.

    Scenario 3. If the outdoor temperature is 100degF or higher, then I take a drink of about 8oz immediately before embarking on a run. This was prompted by a consistent feeling of dehydration during the second half of my runs on hot days. It seems to delay the onset of percepted dehydration for an extra 10 minutes. I never need to urinate immediately afterward.

    Scenario 4. However, on the hottest days (105degF +) 8oz of plain water does not seem to be enough. I often “hit the wall” at about the 20 minute mark and I wonder what portion of this threshold is due to the significant loss of electrolytes under prolonged heavy sweating and what portion of this threshold is due to my body overheating. I don’t know. On those days I actually drink about 8~10oz of Gatorade (powder + water) immediately before commencing the run. It seems to delay “the wall” by about 5 minutes. I never need to urinate immediately afterward.

    Here in the hot desert of Phoenix, AZ, we are thankful for the cooling action of evaporating sweat. I believe that I am a person who drinks more water than the average person (1.5+ gallons/day during winter, 2.0+ gallons/day during summer). Likewise, I believe that I also urninate more than the average person.

    By the way, Dave, great point about “evacuation” on race days. Hmmm, reminds me of Austin Powers, except he woke up after about 40 years…

  4. Jimmy Holub says:

    wow, or was that 30 years frozen? Must have been a good movie. Seems like yesterday…

  5. Jimmy Holub says:

    Gluten link to Diarrhea
    (Got the runs on your runs?)

    I have cut wheat gluten mostly out of my diet and I never eat products containing high amounts of gluten before a race or hard workout. Gluten is found in many breads and (unfortunately) bagels. My basic rule of thumb is to always avoid products that list gluten in the first 5 ingredients.

    After experimenting for a couple months after the 2007 Ragnar Relay del Sol, I have found gluten to cause me diarrhea, among other things. The experiment included eating guten-free food for 2 weeks straight, followed by 2 weeks of devouring products high in gluten, repeat. The results were like night and day, with the gluten-eating periods feeling literally “crappy”. I actually had to end more than 5 workouts early because of diarrhea. Unfortunately, 2 of those runs occurred while I was running with a pretty young lady. Crap.

    Diarrhea prevents nutrients from being assimilated into my body. This is a major problem for me, considering that my body already has issues with high metabolism. Some of the particular effects that I attribute to my apparent gluten allergy include diarrhea, excessive gas, loss of energy, canker sores, mental irritability and impaired ability to mentally focus. I am happy to announce that all of these symptoms are now gone! (However, I have yet to experiment to see if my mild lactose intolerance might also have been caused by gluten.) Needless to say, I eat quite a lot of rice!

    Gluten allergy is also called Celiac Disease. I do not know whether or not I actually qualify for celiac disease because I have not been officially tested and diagnosed by a doctor.

  6. Jimmy,
    RE: sweat & urine
    Your body seeks homeostasis (a natural balance). In doing so, if you are already losing fluids to cool your body (sweat) then it will not produce as much urine through the kidneys. It won’t go to your bladder and therefore you won’t need to urinate as much as usual. So the fact that you don’t have that urge while running in hot temperatures is completely natural.

    It is very difficult to intake as much fluids as necessary while exercising, to take care of fluid loss in sweat as well as take care of all normal bodily needs for fluids and have excess such that it will end up in your bladder to a significant amount. (Be clear, I’m not talking about absolutley no urine being produced during this time. Your kidneys are filters of your blood and you do produce some. If absolutlely none is produced you are probably in some real trouble!)

    As far as your comments on a 20 minute issue and hydration. 20 minutes is not enough under most circumstances to produce great enough dehydration to affect performance (3% body weight or more is the rule of thumb). Certainly, in extreme heat and humidity this is possible but still it shouldn’t be that dramatic.

    I would pose that you are under hydrated to start with. You have not taken in enough fluids all day long and when you go for your run you are already in a slightly dehydrated state. Then, your run puts you over the edge.

    I think the fix is monitoring hydration daily instead of in a single workout and just pre- or post-workout. Second, I think there is a strong psychological variable at play. It IS hot down here at this time of year and it has an adverse affect on most of us mentally trying to fight through it.

    Coach Dean

  7. C Moore says:

    Running seems to really aggravate my IBS. My doc said it is ok to take up to 2 immodium prior to a race; I have found that taking one the night before and one the morning of the race about an hour before helps some. Doesn’t stop the problem, but insures that I can at least make it to the Porta-Potty. I have gone off all grains, dairy and caffeine. That helped some, but not completely.

  8. Jen W. says:

    I am happy to see this discussion is still going on….

    I am a new runner…training for my first 1/2 marathon. I did a long run (10 miles) and at mile 9 started having the rumbling/gassy feel…I made it through my run, but then my husband had to rush me to a porta potty. I am sure I had a look of grim determination because he drove 90 miles an hour without talking. I was trying gu for the first time (one 15 minutes before training with the caffiene and one about 50 minutes in). My longest run prior was 8 miles and I just drank water and had NO issues. (I do have self-diagnosed IBS caused by who knows what: stress, coffee, fatty foods etc.)

    My feeling is the gu did it…(I was drinking water like a fiend…I am a big water drinker).

    Can I just bring something like gatorade and drink that along with water?

    And my other question is: The run I am going on does NOT have any bathrooms on the way (It’s a non-technical trail race in the mountains)…so ummm, what should I do? Poo behind a tree? Wear a diaper? HELP.

    Also, I have inner ear problems and when I have too much salt, coffee, or aspirin, ibuprophen etc. I have gotten full on vertigo. So I am really nervous about energy gu/gel/sodium/electrolytes. Is it okay to just stick with water for 13 + miles. (This half is actually slightly more…13.7, for what it’s worth…with 2 500 ft climbs…)

    • Dean Hebert says:

      You don’t mention your pace. Your pace of course is important because it tells me how much TIME you will be out there. The needs of a 1:15 half-marathoners have different needs than 2:00 half-marathoners. Generally, I would say you will do just fine with gatorade and water. There is no reason to add the rest of that stuff and do NOT use aspirin or ibuprofen before running – they can effect your heat regulation metabolism as well as mask pain. Not good. Gatorade is created to be just the right carbohydrate and electrolyte. Alternate this with water and you should do very well on all accounts… no need for diapers.

  9. Jen W. says:

    Thank you! My pace at this point is slow (did I mention I just started running a few months ago?) My “goal” is to “finish”…but really in my mind it is 2 hours 24 minutes…I know that sounds slow but there are two serious climbs and some of my running friends said they found this race challenging, and a few ended up walking it because they underestimated the climbs…one fairly athletic friend said that was his time the first time he ran it, the second time was around 2 hours. I just want to a) be able to run the whole time and b) not have digestive upset doing it.

  10. Dean Hebert says:

    Be sure to practice your hydration/nutrition plan in training – don’t wait for race day.

  11. Steph says:

    When running a mini a few months ago, I took Imodium, knowing I would most likely have diarrhea if I did not. Unfortunately, at mile 12, I started feeling ill. I tried to make use of a porta potty, but the Imodium had done its job and I ended up vomiting. Admittedly, I was not well prepared for this particular mini, but will this always happen if I make use of Imodium? I don’t know which is worse, the runs or vomiting.

    • Dean Hebert says:

      I am not sure that your vomiting was caused by Imodium… possible for sure but not my guess.
      The biggest mistake you made really is that you never do anything on race day you haven’t done in practice.
      You work on dosage and timing and of course side effects in practice runs not races. So, my advice is to experiment more before you avoid using something that can help with the trots.

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