Back to Running After a Long Hiatus and Tackling GI Distress For Runners

Here’s what you relearn every time you get back to running after a long hiatus:

female runner

When you hit that slap of back to running reality it's a combo of pain and ecstasy to be back. 🙂

* Cross-training is just that.
Nothing is the same as running, mentally and physically, and while you’re a world better off doing that tedious cross-training, it’s still a cold slap of reality when you get back to the real deal. Hello, muscles, almost forgot about you until you were sore again.

* Thank you muscle memory. That slap of reality stinks but it’s kind of crazy how the hazing period isn’t that long…thankfully the longer you’ve been a runner the more your muscles remember how to slip back into runner mode. Push past those initial harder than they really should be runs and you start getting back to your self.

* Nothing clears you out like running. Forget Activia or colonics, sorry if I err on the side of TMI, but it’s true, running keeps you regular.
road runner
This segues into my topic for today…the guts, the intestines, and GI issues on the run. I know some of us runners are ‘blessed’ with more than our fair share of these troubles and I’m one of them. Sometimes it’s totally unpredictable and you just do a slight prayer to the running Gods before each hard workout, race, or long run that you won’t have a GI disaster.

The tricky thing with these types of things is that they are different for everyone and really tough to nail down a remedy for. Experts suggest:

* Eating bland foods that sit easy in the stomach. You could call these ‘low residue’ foods, they don’t have much bulk (read as fiber). Examples would be plain, white rice; Dathan Ritzenhein goes to this before his big races because he knows that is what works for him. Other athletes find that drinking their last meal of caloric intake keeps them safe; just make sure it’s a drink that is more than just electrolytes and actually has carbohydrates and sustenance.

* Don’t over-eat. I have a very temperamental stomach and to be quite frank like to run first thing in the morning before breakfast. If I were training and had a hard workout I’d get up earlier and have some oatmeal, but it would have to be a few hours before. Planning your meals helps, and you can revisit my article about ‘Timing Your Fuel’ in Running Times.

poop book

Real book, I made it, you want one? 🙂

* Eating on the run. If you’re training for a marathon or doing a really long workout things get even more complicated. During exercise the blood is being sent to your muscles doing the work and all the energy being spent is geared towards getting you to perform; this means that there isn’t the extra blood supply to then go to your stomach and start doing a ton of digesting. For this reason that’s why sometimes people can get into trouble eating just too much during their event; estimates are that you should consume roughly 200 calories per hour of exercise if you’re running more than one hour but everyone is different. Again, liquids are your friend.

* The night before. I know going into a morning run the possibilities that there will be a pit-stop in order are much higher if I’ve eaten a certain kind of food the night before and had a bit more than my fair share. I’ll call it the “Well, I know I’ll pay for it later but it’s worth it right now” effect. Today’s run was brought to the OD of Entenmann’s cheese filled coffee cake last night…but it was worth it. 😉

* Other remedies. I’ve talked to people who swear by this or that supplement, I’ve known people who have had their GI problems solved by acupuncture, there were periods where I’d have to pop an Imodium before every hard workout or long run and it seemed to help. If you’ve suffered with this issue enough you’re willing to try or do anything.

Even with all of this there is never a sure bet. Every GI sufferer sympathized with poor Paula Radcliffe during her marathon pit-stop and it proves that 1) don’t be ashamed to talk about these things because nearly every runner has experienced it 2) don’t make fun of people pulling the bush dive, Karma is a bi*** 3) we’ve been there and if nothing else, try to laugh at yourself, it’s the only way to keep on going.

Still, even after all of these slaps of back to running reality (seriously, the last pain free running this runnerchick got in was somewhere around Halloween!) it is SO worth it, gurgly guts, sore muscles, and all! 🙂

1) What’s the longest you’ve gone without running? Did you cross-traing during that time?

2) What’s one ‘slap of back to running reality’ you have?

3) Do you have stomach or GI issues? What have you tried and what works for you?

4) Is there a certain ‘trigger food’ that you know will set off your stomach? Are there times when you throw caution to the wind and dig in anyways??
Pretty sure we all do it, I’ve got a friend who is nearly Lactose intolerant but orders up the biggest sized Blizzards if she’s sure an easy day is on tap for the next day.

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21 thoughts on “Back to Running After a Long Hiatus and Tackling GI Distress For Runners

  1. YAAAAY for your return to running!! aaah I remember that horrible but wonderful process all too well…struggling to get to the 10 minute mark at a slow pace…fun times! 😛 but you’re right, it does come back surprisingly quickly! just imagine how hard it would be if we DIDN’T cross train!!

    oh gosh, I have the worst GI and stomach issues! I have a seriously sensitive stomach before running, and I always struggle with it in races! but I tried the white rice thing and it worked!! not fun to eat though haha! 😛

    hope your return to running contines to go well!! <3

    • thank u SOOO much for the warm welcome back, i kno u would understand how excited i am to get in wat little i can!! and u’re an inspiration urself, miss speedy pants! 🙂

  2. Girl that picture is so me yesterday! Total awful bush dive story! I even ate bland foods–no clue what was wrong! I was laughing though and thinking about you because I know you understand—uh, is that weird? 🙂

    • haha…is it weird that i find nothing at all surprising that the first person you would think of mid bush-dive is me?? lol…girl i sooo feel u! hopefully next run is sans poopy issues. 😛

  3. My goodness this blog hit me dead on! My first half marathon I had an emergency stop at mile 5. I will never ever drink milk before a race again – how dumb am I? Great post!

  4. I’m starting to experiment with an absolute rule of no coffee before my weekend long run. I’ve found that even if I’ve “cleaned out the pipes” moments before heading out the door, often within 30 minutes that uncomfortable urge will hit. No issues last weekend when I avoided the coffee. Was I lucky, or am I on to something? We’ll see this Sunday!

    Never had issues until I was 29 or 30 – first popped up during some heavier marathon training at that age. At the time I thought it had to do with my increased training, but still have issues now even when running just a little.

    • dang man, sorry to hear ur issues appeared out of nowhere…like the gift of meeting 30?? jk. well, hey, if u find that skipping coffee is working, don’t question…avoid the bush dive! 🙂

  5. I definitely have to be careful with coffee before running! And you are so right – cross-training is so very different. I like to kid myself it keeps me fit when running isn’t an option, but it’s a different sort of fitness and doesn’t always help when I get out there for long runs after a break!

  6. I had no idea you were injured?!…but I am SO excited you are on the come-back, YAAAH!!!
    I’ve only been running ~2.5 yrs, and my longest break was last month (almost 3weeks) it AMAZED me how quickly your body ‘remembers’ how to run, and that each run gets better and better!
    GOOD LUCK to you and your return to running! Can’t wait to cheer you on in your next race! 🙂

    • aww, thanks for all the kind words and positive good luck vibes, i’ll take em! 🙂 hehe. it is amazing about muscle memory and it also gives me such respect for the human body and its ability to adapt. 🙂

  7. Hello, it was nice to read your post. I have been researching this topic on the internet and was wondering if this only applies to people running marathons. I only run for 30 -45 min and get terrible cramps, sometimes diarrhea, vomiting but not until I am home and usually after I eat cause most of the time it is right before dinner. I don’t run regularly, and I have about 20 lbs extra weight. Do you think I am not prepared for this kind of exercise? I have been doing this on and off for more than 10 years and the pain/GI problems don’t happen every time.


    • hey there, thanks for stopping by!! it sure sounds like you’re having some bad GI issues, and yes, it can happen to everyone; however, since you say you don’t run regularly what’s probably happening is that you’re just pushing it a bit too hard the few times you do go out. if u were consistent, ur body would be able to adapt and be better prepared to running. so my advice is to aim for consistency! 🙂

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  11. I was writing about GI distress running for my blog when I googled onto your post. LOVE it !! And you’ve written perfectly what I experienced today. My first run in 14 days, first run in the heat, first run in the PM, and GI distress galore.
    I am linking your post in mine and I credited you for the picture (I hope you don’t mind me using it, please let me know if you would rather I didn’t). The post is scheduled to publish on 5/30.

    • thanks for all your kind words and i’m so glad you found my post helpful! 🙂
      link love away, so long as bloggers credit i’m happy to be quoted. 🙂

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