I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that running makes them sick to their stomach. I’ve received questions on how to avoid this. I think most runners have been there and here are a few tips to help you finish your runs feeling like this…
And not like this…
First and foremost, GIVE IT TIME. I know this is the last thing that most people want to hear but it takes your body a while to adjust to the stress of running. When I first started running timed miles in high school I remember feeling like I was going to die afterwards. And when I trained for my first half marathon, all I could do after long runs was lie on the couch and feel nauseous. Now, after long or hard runs I feel totally fine and can immediately eat and continue with my day.
GRADUALLY INCREASE INTENSITY. Continuing with the “giving it time” theme, make it easier on yourself by gradually increasing the intensity and length of your runs. Don’t expect to do a hard speed workout and feel good when your body is used to slow, steady runs. In the same vein, don’t be surprised if you feel off after your first couple long runs if you start a training plan where you are running distances you aren’t accustomed to. Try to stick to the general rule of not increasing mileage more than 10 percent per week. Trust me, you will get there if you just work into it slowly.
ROUTINE IS YOUR FRIEND. Figure out what you can and can’t eat. Unfortunately, this takes some trial and error. There are several things you need to think about here.
1. Dinner the night before your run. This is especially important if you are going long. You’ll want to eat a meal that’s high in carbohydrates but avoid rich, high fiber and high fat foods. For a lot of people this is pasta, pizza or a grain-based dish. It is NOT a good idea to eat pasta with cream sauce and chocolate cake the night before a race. No matter how good it may taste. That cake is best saved for a post-run treat. Just trust me on this one. 😉
2. What you eat to fuel for a run. Find a pre-run meal or snack that works for your and stick with it. For me, that’s toast with peanut butter and banana. You’ll want to eat something that is easy for your body to stomach but that will provide fuel during the run. Again, simple carbohydrates and nothing too rich.
3. Fueling on the run. If you’re going long you need to consume calories on the run. I generally don’t take in fuel unless I’m running over 10 miles. I’ve tried a lot of fueling sources and have found that gels work best for me. Personally, I cannot stomach sports drinks but they work great for a lot of people. Some people even eat pretzels, peanut butter sandwiches, gummy bears, orange slices or dates. It’s just personal preference and finding what works best for you.
STAY HYDRATED. Believe it or not, GI distress can be heightened by dehydration. Continuously take in fluids as you run and remember that if you wait until you are thirsty, you have waited too long. Try the time-honored test of weighing yourself before and after you run (one of the few times I will advocate stepping on the scale!). If you maintain the same weight, then you have hydrated properly. If you weigh less, then you need to examine how you can better hydrate on the run.
If you’re a morning runner, BUILD IN TIME before you run to eat breakfast, drink coffee (if that works for you) and let nature take its course. This is starting to venture into “topics that I don’t want to discuss in detail on my blog” but you know what I’m saying.
And finally, NEVER, EVER TRY ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY. EVER. Stick with what has worked for you throughout your training. Don’t try new gels or chews that you may have picked up at the expo. Eat the same exact breakfast that you’ve eaten before every run (the importance of establishing the routine). Don’t even try a new flavor or sports drinks. Most bigger races will tell you what type of sports drink they will have at the aid stations. If in doubt, carry it with you.
Race days can be STRESSFUL and ANXIETY increases your chances of experiencing GI distress but hopefully if you stick with your routine you can avoid it. Just remember that every runner has been there at some point in time and it will get better.
What are our secrets for avoiding GI distress and nausea during the run and after? Please share! I would love to hear what works for others and I know that everyone will benefit from sharing stories.
Check out the article, “It Happens” that ran in ESPN magazine’s October special The Body issue. WOW!