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Coaches Note # 10

Nutrition Tip:
Runner’s Trots: How to reduce pit stops
By Nancy Clark, MS, RD

Dear Nancy,
I’m getting very frustrated because I need to take a pit stop five miles into most of my
runs. Even if I have a bowel movement before I run, I still get sidelined with diarrhea. Do
you have any suggestions for how to resolve this embarrassing problem?

Dear Harold,
The problem is likely related to the fact you are doing more exercise than usual.
Exercise--specifically more exercise than your body is accustomed to doing--can increase
intestinal activity. As your body adjusts to doing more and more exercise, you may find
the problem abates and you bowel movements return to normal. But problems with
diarrhea during exercise do not always subside, as witnessed by the number of
experienced runners who always carry toilet paper with them on training runs.

If the problem is related to your diet, the following nutrition tips might help reduce the
• Reduce your intake of high-fiber cereals. If you are eating bran cereal for breakfast, or
munching on five apples a day, stop. You don't need the extra roughage!

• If you are chewing lots of “sugar free” gum or hard candies, cut back. "Sugar-free"
dietetic foods often contain sorbitol. This is a type of sugar that can cause diarrhea.

• Limit suspicious foods that might contribute to loose stools. These might include
excessive amounts of juice, fresh fruit, raisins, dried fruit, beans, lentils, or milk. Some
runners keep detailed food and exercise records, and take note of when they have
diarrhea. They then eliminate any suspected food for a few days, to see if the problem
resolves. Next, they confirm the guess, by eating a bigger portion of the suspected food to
see if that creates obvious changes in bowel movements.

• You may need to pay attention to what you ate a few days prior to the bout of diarrhea,
because food moves through most people's intestines in two to four days.

• If you enjoy running competitively and are afraid of getting sidelined during a road
race, try doing some light pre-race exercise to help empty the bowels. Also drink extra
water to maintain hydration.

• Think positive. Perhaps by visualizing problem-free runs, you can bring that vision to
• If the problem persists, you might want to ask your doctor about anti-diarrhea
medications to help resolve the problem.

For additional food help, read Nancy Clark’s Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for
Everyday Champions; available at

26.2 symptoms of a runner or walker

1. You know how many miles there are in a marathon.
2. Your weekly mileage is how much you walk/run, not your commute to work.
3. You know how many miles you get out of a pair of running shoes.
4. You can convert Kilometers to Miles in your head.
5. You measure your /walking/running route in your car to get the exact mileage.
6. When someone tells you their age, you automatically know their
Boston qualifying time.
7. You know Grandma's as the route from Two Harbors to Duluth, not the
8. You can drink; blow your nose and pee on the run.
9. The problem with the treadmill is there's no place to spit.
10. You have less than ten toenails and that's normal for you.
11. Body Glide is your friend.
12. Ibuprofen is affectionately known as "Vitamin I".
13. Navigating dog walkers and baby strollers annoys you because it
interrupts your pace.
14. When you participate in an organized event, you know not to walk/run in
your race t-shirt.
15. You have a favorite energy gel and flavor.
16. The "Picasso" above your fireplace is last year's race poster.
17. You have pre and post race rituals.
18. The journal you keep is in miles and pace not feelings or thoughts.
19. When you look at the weather conditions, you calculate how many
layers to wear.
20. The pride you feel after a good run is worth the pain it took to
get there.
21. You have more t-shirts than you could possibly wear.
22. When you hear the word "bib", you think of race numbers not babies
and Gerber food.
23. The "no carbohydrate diet" does not apply to you.
24. You know that Fartlek is not vulgar terminology.
25. A hill is an opportunity just waiting to be challenged.
26. You know the phrase "you're almost there" only applies when the
finish line is in sight.
.2 Your vacation destination is determined by your race schedule.