In an ideal world, as soon as you wake up in the morning and get ready for your run, you’d be ready to use the bathroom and empty your bowels before running.
There’s nothing more uncomfortable than having to poop while running, and runner’s trots or runner’s diarrhea are so named for a reason—running stimulates the bowels and makes you have to poop.
However, your body and your running schedule aren’t always perfectly aligned, and sometimes you sit on the toilet before your workout and wait, and wait, and wait.
You look at your watch and realize you have to get out the door for your run—or worse, the starting gun is going to go off soon for your race.
In these cases, knowing how to poop before a run or workout would be very handy and could save you from dodging into a Port-a-Potty (or woods!) mid-workout.
It’s not always possible to speed Mother Nature along, but if you’re wondering how to poop before a run, keep reading for some tips on how to empty your bowels before running.
We will cover:
- What to Do If You Are Constipated Before Running
- How to Poop Before a Run Or Workout
- How to Make Yourself Poop Before Running: 9 Tips On How To Empty Your Bowels Before Running
Let’s get started!
What to Do If You Are Constipated Before Running
If you’re constipated before a race or workout, it can be especially difficult to make yourself poop before running because it will involve more stimulation to empty your bowels on command so to speak.
What causes constipation in runners and how can you prevent constipation before a race?
Constipation can result from low motility of the GI tract, and it increases stool transit time, which refers to the length of time it takes for contents of the digestive tract to travel through the intestines and colon and be expelled as stool.
Constipation can make bowel movements infrequent, painful, and difficult.
This is because stool is typically harder and more compact due to the extended time it sits in the colon, where water is reabsorbed from the stool back into the body, drying it out.
There are many factors that can contribute to constipation in runners, including, but not limited to, dehydration, a low-fiber diet, stress, and certain medications and medical conditions.
Gut motility directly affects transit time, so factors that alter gut motility, such as the central nervous system, gut secretions and enzymes, nutrient content in the food, and the gut microbiota and their metabolic byproducts can all contribute to constipation as well.
A sedentary lifestyle is also a major risk factor for constipation, though by definition, running mitigates this risk.
However, runners who are injured or have to take a few days off, or if you alter your exercise routine, you can definitely suffer from temporary constipation or difficulty pooping before running.
How to Poop Before a Run Or Workout
In general, our bodies are fairly regular in that if you’re eating your meals and snacks at approximately the same time every day, you’ll find you also end up pooping around the same time every day.
Therefore, hopefully you can “train” your bowels to either allow you to relieve yourself before your usual workout time or ensure they’re at least quiet and calm during your run so you can focus on running your route rather than running to the nearest bathroom.
The best way of how to poop before a run or workout is by being consistent with your schedule. Keeping the same routine for eating and exercising should help your body develop its predictable pattern of bowel movements.
It’s also really important to make sure your diet supports healthy bowel movements. You want to get at least 25-30 grams of fiber every day, although more is better.
Examples of foods high in fiber include legumes like beans and lentils, vegetables, bran and certain whole grains, and avocados.
It’s also important to be adequately hydrated, as dehydration is one of the primary causes of constipation in runners.
How to Make Yourself Poop Before Running: 9 Tips On How To Empty Your Bowels Before Running
Even if you’re eating enough fiber and drinking enough water, we all have days where we can’t poop before our workout.
Whether you’re running earlier than usual, ate something unfamiliar, didn’t sleep well, seem dehydrated, are traveling, have a race, or have to rush out the door, your body might not be ready to empty your bowels before running.
In these cases, it’s helpful to know how to make yourself poop before running.
Here are tips for how to poop before a run:
#1: Wake Up Earlier
Rushing yourself can sometimes make matters worse because stressing about not pooping can make it even harder to poop.
If you’re habitually struggling to poop before your workout in the morning, try waking up earlier, having your coffee or tea, and walking around as you get ready for the day for at least 30 minutes to give your bowels time to wake up.
#2: Drink Your Coffee
Your cup of coffee won’t just help you feel more alert and energized for your workout, but it can also make you poop.
Although the exact reason isn’t clear, evidence suggests that coffee acts as a cathartic, which means that it stimulates colonic contractions, and thus bowel movements.
Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to be the caffeine in coffee that has the laxative effect.
Therefore, the good news for runners who don’t like coffee is that any hot beverage—including tea or hot water with lemon—seems to have the same effect.
Hot liquids increase circulation and cause vasodilation in the digestive tract. This can increase peristalsis.
#3: Do Some Exercise
Exercise is one of the best ways to make yourself poop before a run or workout because it increases blood flow and encourages contractions of the intestines.
After all, we all know how you might not need to poop in the slightest and then as soon as you start running, you feel like you’re in dire straits to use the bathroom.
For this reason, one of the best strategies for how to poop before a run or workout is to do your warm-up or light calisthenics inside as you wait around to use the toilet.
Try jogging in place, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, crunches, running up and down the stairs, or take a quick little jog around the block and then come back and use the bathroom before your real run.
#4: Massage Your Belly and Groin
Manually massaging your lower belly can help stimulate colonic contractions to help expel stool along so you can poop.
There is also evidence to suggest that applying gentle pressure on your perineum —the region between your anus and genitals—can stimulate the urge to poop.
#5: Drink Prune Juice
Most people aren’t rushing to guzzle prune juice, but it’s a good option to have on hand when you’re looking for how to poop before a run or workout.
Prunes contain fiber and sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that acts as a natural laxative because it draws water into the bowels, which bulks up stool.
#6: Have Some Nuts or Prunes
Foods high in magnesium, such as Brazil nuts, almonds, and prunes are high in magnesium, which can help promote bowel movements and relieve constipation.
#7: Sit On the Toilet
Sometimes, even if you don’t have the immediate urge to go, just sitting and relaxing on the toilet can trigger your brain and body to coax along the urge to poop.
Whether you choose to lie on your bed or the floor or sit on the toilet as you call upon your inner zen, meditating can help you poop before a run or workout by reducing stress and calming the nervous system.
Because of the intricate connectedness of the gut and the brain via the gut-brain axis, our emotional state can greatly influence the health and function of the microbiome and digestive tract.
For example, the gut microbiota regulate the secretion of neurotransmitters such as cortisol, tryptophan, and serotonin, which both directly impact mood and also affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the central nervous system (CNS).
When the body is in a state of stress, the sympathetic (“fight or flight”) nervous system is activated and dominates the physiology of the body.
From a primitive, biological perspective, the sympathetic nervous system is designed to save us from danger—such as outrunning a lion. Even if our modern-day stressors aren’t as do or die as they were thousands of years ago, our brains perceive all stress the same way.
Under “fight or flight” nervous control, certain functions, such as digestion and excretion, which aren’t thought to be critical for survival, are put on pause in a way, as the body is prioritizing life-saving functions.
By calming the body and mind through meditation, you are able to shift your body into a parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) controlled state, in which the body and brain feel safe to promote digestion.
This can “turn on” peristalsis and encourage bowel movements.
#9: Try Yoga Or Gentle Stretching
One of the healthiest ways to relieve the symptoms of constipation and make yourself poop before a run is by doing yoga or gentle stretches.
In fact, yoga has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine for digestive issues.
There are two primary ways in which yoga can alleviate constipation.
The first is by massaging the digestive tract through movements and poses, and the second is by modulating the gut-brain axis and moving the body into a parasympathetic nervous system state by reducing stress.
Yoga poses, particularly when performed in a sequence—moving from one to the next—involve twisting, inverting, and folding your torso.
These movements place pressure on shifting pockets of the intestines, which helps stimulate peristalsis, or the slow, wavelike contractions of your GI tract that propel your undigested food towards the bowels.
In this way, a yoga sequence can serve as an effective colonic massage to help you empty your bowels before running.
The second way in which yoga can alleviate constipation and make you poop before a run is by reducing stress, which, in turn, can improve digestion and bowel function as previously discussed.
Essentially, yoga allows you to relax the body and mind, activating the parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) nervous system, which promotes digestion and thus pooping.
There have even been several studies actually demonstrating the ability of a yoga practice to alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, and bloating.
For example, one study involving an integrated approach to yoga therapy found a 61% reduction in reported physical discomfort in adults with chronic constipation coupled with a 59% reduction in psychological consequences of chronic constipation after just one week.
Although this won’t necessarily help you if you are looking into how to poop before a run or workout in just a few minutes, it could still be helpful for more ongoing success with emptying your bowels before running.
Other research has concluded that yoga stimulates digestion, eases constipation, and improves symptoms and quality of life in those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-C) by increasing circulation in the lower abdomen, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, massaging the digestive organs, strengthening the mind-body connection, and increasing feelings of wellbeing.
Finally, yoga interventions have been shown to successfully lower cortisol levels and regulate HPA axis function.
Some of the best yoga poses to help you poop and relieve constipation include Supine Twist, Wind-Relieving Pose, Garland Pose, Downward-Facing Dog Pose, Plow Pose, Upward-Facing Dog Pose, and Cat-Cow.
Give one of more of these strategies a try when you’re desperate for how to poop before a run or workout, and see if you can get things moving.
For some help with those yoga poses, check out Yogajala!