Chafing. How bad can it be? Really bad.

I think chafing should be one of those words that when you say it or type it, a short blast of ominous music plays.  Otherwise it just seems like a dish you heat food in. There is one thing that running and chafing dishes have in common.  They both involve heat and moisture.  Ay, there’s the rub.  And that’s the last piece of the puzzle for running: friction.

Put more succinctly, rubbing (friction) + heat + moisture = chafing (pain).

You may or may not have seen pictures from a recent marathon of some poor guy who really didn’t know that it’s not a good idea to run 21 km (half marathon) or 42 km (marathon) in a cotton tshirt.  Missed that photo?  Let me show you what you’re missing:Don't Let This Happen To You! I’ve been reading the Sookie Stackhouse series of books (from which True Blood is based) and I can’t help but think this poor dude looks like gigantic vampiric fangs attacked him. He would probably be in less pain if that was the case.

Nipples on men are a common area for chafing.  Other areas to watch: around the band of your bra, inner thighs, under arms and feet.  Note that when chafing usually happens with feet, that turns into something completely different and equally crippling: blisters.

So, how do you avoid chafing? Here are my key rules that have kept me chafe-free for the most part:

  • Avoid cotton.  Invest in a technical style shirt that will wick away moisture.  This type of clothing doesn’t have to cost a lot.  Winners and Costco can usually be counted on to provide a good shirt at a reasonable price.  Same for shorts and socks, bra and undies – avoid cotton!  Cotton absorbs moisture and holds it against your skin.  The repetitive motion from running will cause the fabric to rub and voila: chafing.
  • If you’re blessed with quads like myself, once you find shorts that are comfy, buy more than one pair if you can.  Or at least take really good care of the ones you have (wash after every wearing either by hand or on a delicate cycle and hang to dry) so they’ll last.
  • If you’re a guy, consider putting something like Vaseline or Body Glide on your nipples before your run.  If you’re not too hairy and can stand it, consider applying Band Aids over your nippes to protect them.  Just make sure they’re waterproof so they stay put while you sweat.
  • If your inner thighs rub, consider putting some Vaseline or Body Glide on the affected area before you run.
  • If you’ve got a mole or anything that you need to cover, go for the Band Aid solution, again making sure the Band Aids are waterproof.
  • If you’re trying a new piece of clothing, test it out before you wind up in a situation where you’re half way through your run and your skin is burning.  If you have any doubts about the comfort of a piece of clothing, don’t wear it.  This was my mistake on a run last week.  (If anyone is looking for a Champion brand running skirt, size Medium, I’ve got one for you.)

Listen to your body.  If you feel a hotspot, adjust whatever you can to take the friction away.  My first experience with chafing was on a long run.  At the 12K mark of a 15K run, I finally stopped chatting with my running partner long enough to realize one of my legs of my shorts had ridden up and had been like that for who knows how long.  I know how long.  Long enough to do some real damage.  Even though I adjusted my shorts and they stayed put for the remainder of my run, my skin looked like this (note: not my skin; some other unlucky devil’s):Ouch.

The thing about chafing is that it repeatedly reminds you it’s there.  When the water from the shower hits – ouch.  If it’s in an area where you sweat: ouch.  If it’s in an area where clothing normally sits/hugs (think: bra band): ouch.    Hopefully by now, I’ve convinced you that there are a lot of reasons to try to avoid getting chafed.  And now you understand why I think the ominous music should play when chafing is mentioned.

Okay so you’ve done everything right and yet somehow, something went wrong.  What to do?

Clean the area.  Put an ointment like Polysporin or Vitamin E (ointment, not cream!) on it.  Dress it with a piece of gauze if it’s going to rub and it’s really bad.  If it’s in a place that will be aggravated by further running, hang up your shoes for a day or two unil the area heals.  Analyze what went wrong and make a note not to repeat it.

Happy trails!

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What did you do today?

What are you training for?  What did you do today?  Use the comments section below and let me know what you’re up to, even if it’s just a rest day.  Rest days are just as valuable as training days.  Without them, you won’t see any improvement in your performance.

Shin Splints, IT Band Pain, Chafing, More Chafing and a Wolf Whistle

I started out rather innocently on a 10K run tonight, unaware of what lay in store for me.  If only I knew then what I know now.

It looked like it was going to rain before I left (and indeed, it had been raining intermittently all day) so I pulled out my old shoes.   I’m training for a 10 miler and have a heavy training schedule.  I didn’t want my “good” shoes to get wet because I wanted to wear them the following day.  Mistake #1.  I chose to wear a running skirt that I don’t normally wear.  Not only do I not normally wear it but I NEVER wear it for anything longer than 3k.  Mistake #2.

I fell into my normal routine: 5 minute or so warm-up and off I go. If you were inside my brain you would have heard this:

– Run, run, run, run, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch.  Hey.  Shin splints?  Hunh.  Weird.  I haven’t had those for eons.
– Wait a sec.  That tightness over the side of my knee?  That’s my old IT band issue flaring up?  What the heck…???
– Okaaayyy.  Now my shorts (attached to the skirt) are riding up.  That’s not cool.  They’re really rubbing.  I’m really sweaty.  Like “sweat dripping off my elbows and the tops of my hands are wet” sweating.  This isn’t feeling good.  They’re still rubbing.  Yank shorts down. That’s better.
– Keep running.
– Man, my shins hurt.
– Wolf whistle from passing car.  Oh hey.  I look good at least.  Or was that my neighbour?
– Oh my gosh these shorts are really rubbing!

And that was it.  The perfect storm had come to a chaotic focal point and I stopped running.  Let’s dissect the drama and see what went wrong so the same thing doesn’t happen to you.

Shoes and Shin Splints

I should have stuck with my newer shoes.  Even though my new shoes are a month old and even though they’re the latest version of my old shoes, I swear Saucony changed the model enough that I’m still getting used to them.  I think the switch back (plus a general muscular tightness) brought on the shin splints.  So, let’s say this happens to you – what do you do?

You can try a couple of things.  First of all, try running a little more slowly.  A lot of time shin splints are a result of starting out too quickly.  The muscles just aren’t warm enough to perform.  If that doesn’t work, try stopping and stretching.  Shin splints may be a result of a muscle imbalance.  Most people have stronger calf muscles than shin muscles.  Also, if you’re a girly girl like I sometimes am and you’ve just spent the entire day in heels, your calf muscles have shortened and your shin muscles have been lengthened all day long.  Stop and stretch your calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus).  Try to stretch your shin muscles (tibialis anterior).  The latter can be tricky because it’s just a tough muscle to stretch.  Resume running and take it easy.  When you get home, ensure that you stretch and if you’re shins are sore or continue to hurt throughout your run, make ice your friend and introduce it to your shins.

If you suspect that a muscle imbalance may be the root of your shin splints (stronger calves than shins), you can try this little exercise to strengthen them.

Take off your socks (assuming you’re wearing any).
Place a towel, all spread out, on the floor in front of you.
Place your feet flat on the towel.
Keeping your feet as flat as possible, use your toes to scrunch the towel up, gradually pulling it towards you.
You should feel the muscles in your shin working.
Keep going until all the towel has been pulled forward. Stop. Spread the towel out again and repeat.
This is much easier on a tile or wood floor than it is on carpet.
Some people find it convenient to put the toilet lid down, park themselves on the toilet and do this in the bathroom. Whatever does it for you.

IT Band Pain

I dealt with some iliotibial band pain for a while.  I’ve been diligent about stretching for the past year and a half and as a results have almost forgotten that little bit of fascia that messes so many of us up.  I get classic IT pain.  It feels less like pain (I stop before it gets that bad) and more like a tightening around the outside of my knee.  It’s almost an uncomfortable tingling.  In hindsight the tight calf/shin muscles and shoe mix-up probably contributed to that reappearance of pain.  Also, I haven’t been very diligent about stretching this week and after the weekend’s activities (a 5k race, a 15K long run and a 90 minute soccer game), I should have been (and should be now) stretching in every free minute I have. In my opinion, stretching is the best preventative measure you can take to prevent issues with your iliotibial band. If that doesn’t work, try massage or a foam roller.

Chafing.  Chafing deserves a post of its own.  It seems rather innocuous and then blammo…after running for 3 years, you’re chafed and you have a lot more sympathy for the dudes with bloody nipple streaks down their shirts.

The moral of the story is, sometimes runs don’t go as planned.  It happens.  What’s that saying — “Why do we fall down? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”  Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again another day.  Do not keep going if the pain/discomfort is going to cause you to miss more training.  I pulled the plug on this run because I knew from recent experience that chafing, depending on where it is, can stop you from running for a few days.  My philosophy is that it’s better to miss one day than it is to miss one week.

So you want to run a 10K race?

I’ve managed to talk a few friends into joining a 10K race.  For most of them, it will be their first 10K.  What an exciting time!  If you’ve ever considered running a 10K race and didn’t because you weren’t sure where to start, here are some training plans to check out:

Jeff Galloway has a special place in my heart.  It was his 5K plan that I followed to complete my first 5K.  I find his plans easy to follow with just the right amount of running for a novice runner and a great amount of rest if you want/need it.  Not sure where to start?  I recommend this one.

http://www.jeffgalloway.com/training/5k.html

I like Hal Higdon’s plans.  He always puts a good number of cross training days in his plans and you can use those as rest days if you find you’re pretty tired and could use the extra rest.  Having said that, I would recommend that his plans be adapted by someone who’s already run a 5K.  The first run of 4K may seem intimidating to anyone who hasn’t run that distance already.

http://www.halhigdon.com/10ktraining/10knovice.htm

This is an interesting plan because it gives you different plans based on what your goals are, with the first goal being to finish and the second being to finish in less than 1 hour.  This is a good plan for someone who just wants to finish.  It is an 8 week plan so it gives you a few weeks before you need to start.  I would suggest you get out there and run 3x/week for 20 mins in the 2 weeks preceeding the start of this plan, to help get your fitness level up.

http://www.griffithstownharriers.co.uk/Training/10k%20in%208%20weeks.pdf

Of course, there are a tonne of plans out there so if none of these appeal to you, give Google a whirl and see what you come up with.

Good luck!

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