How to Poop Before a Race (Yes, It's Important!)

If you've ever experienced that unbearable feeling of having to "go" in the middle of a run, you now make going number two your number one priority. All the stars need to be aligned for this magical potty trip to happen, so here are some ways to prevent poop anxiety and to ensure you won't need an emergency visit to the porta-potty during a race.

  • What to eat before: Getting enough fiber and water in the weeks leading up to your race can ensure you get your body on a regular schedule. This is especially important the day before your race since you don't want a bout of constipation to slow you down. For longer races such as a half or full marathon, if you're carb-loading in the days leading up to race day, make sure to still get your usual fill of 25 to 30 grams of fiber, and avoid new foods or foods that cause digestive upset. Don't overeat or undereat the day before since that can throw off your bowels too. Avoid alcohol a few days before the big day, since it can cause dehydration, which can make going to the bathroom even harder. Drinking enough water is equally essential. Aim for 15 to 20 ounces a couple hours before the race, to not only hydrate but to also help you go.
  • Hello, joe: Many people find success with a simple cup of steaming coffee, since the hot liquid and the caffeine can get your digestive juices flowing. If you're not into coffee, any hot liquid such as hot water with lemon or tea can have the same effect.
  • What's for breakfast? Eating can also be the magic key. Popular menu items include a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries, toast and peanut butter, or a small smoothie. Drink a glass of water with your meal to add to the flushing effect.
  • Take a seat: If you don't have the immediate urge to go, sometimes the simple act of sitting and relaxing on the toilet can bring on the feeling. Make sure to wake up early enough so you have at least 10 minutes to sit and gently coax your body into going.
  • Exercise: It may seem crazy to work out before a big race, but a little physical activity can also bring on the urge to go. Taking a long walk, doing some yoga twists, or just going through your usual running warmup can make a bathroom break happen.
  • Set your alarm: All these things take time, and since feeling rushed can have the opposite relaxing effect you're going for, you want to allow for at least two hours before the race begins to drink, eat, sit, and be able to do it in the comfort of your own home or hotel room — not in the stinky porta-potties.
  • How to nix nerves: Stressing and worrying about anything from where you'll park the morning of the race, to whether your plantar fasciitis will act up, to whether or not you'll beat your PR can tie your stomach up in knots, causing digestive issues that range from going too much to not being able to go at all. Do everything in your power to ease your stress. If there's something you're worried about that a little prep the night before can fix, do it, such as making carpool plans so you don't have to drive to the race. For overall race anxiety, yoga is a perfect option as it not only eases your mind but can ease tension in your muscles as well. A hot bath has calming effects, and the heat can also get things moving. Talking to a friend or family member about your worried thoughts is also great medicine.
  • Just go with it: Your best bet is to stick with what works. Practice a routine on longer training-run days, pretending it's race day, so you get up at a certain time, eat a specific breakfast, and allow enough time to let nature take its course. Practice this a few times so you're confident nothing will stand in your way come race day.