Most of the time, working out leaves you feeling better: calmer, fitter, healthier. But then there are the ugly parts. Do you remember the great Norwegian runner Grete Waitz who was plagued with a case of the runs during the London Marathon—and kept running to eventually win the race? That’s not the only nasty side effect of exercise, though. These five problems—while common—are also treatable. Here’s what to do what trouble strikes.
Why it happens: The vibrations of the body, the increased metabolism, and the motility that occur once you start to run can all lead to one thing: diarrhea, says Scott Weiss, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist. This can happen for for a slew of different reasons. A few possible ones: Exercise increases the activity in your intestines, plus your body diverts energy to your legs to keep you moving—leaving them with less blood flow.
Make it stop: A lot of times, stopping the problem comes down to the person. If you have a weak stomach—and are more susceptible to GI issues—you’ll know it. And it may be harder to prevent. But one thing that can help? “A low fiber diet and staying hydrated. That can sometimes slow motility in your body down,” says Weiss. Another tip: When training, devise your course so that it goes through public places with restrooms, he says. It may not be practical on race day, but while training, it’s worth it.
Subungual Hematoma (AKA When Your Toenails Bleed and Fall Off)
Why it happens: Blame the pressure of running and distance, improperly fitting shoes, too thick of a sock, or the architecture of your feet, says Weiss. Constant pounding can give rise to pressure stores that eventually can make the toenail fall off. The condition is common in runners—known more colloquially as runner’s toe.
Make it stop: “A lot of athletes ignore their feet,” says Weiss. Think about it: Your first move post-long run probably isn’t for a pedicure. But cutting your toenails, icing your feet (to stop them from swelling—which can worsen the condition), and bandaging up can go a far way in the toenail department. And a pedicure every now and then wouldn’t hurt—even the pros do it.
Blisters That Rip Up Your Heels
Why it happens: Dr. Weiss says he’s seen athletes who have such bad callus’ and blisters on the bottom of their feet that you could peel off the skin like a sleeve. Of course, you shouldn’t. But there is a solution: stop the feet from sweating so much. Sweat on the bottom of your foot initially causes friction but then years of blistering develops the callus’, he says.
Make it stop: Re-think how you’re using your antiperspirant deodorant, says Weiss. Using some on the bottom of your feet will slow the sweating down, and thus the formation and severity of blisters. “This isn’t going to cure it, but lubrication and antiperspirant deodorant is a common trick for runners.”
Why it happens: “After a few minutes of exercise, the amount of saliva in your mouth decreases a lot and changes the acid base in your mouth, which makes it more basic—that environment can eat away at tooth enamel.”
Make it stop: Stay hydrated—go out of your way to drink water even when you’re not thirsty, says Weiss. Even swishing water around in your mouth can re-balance the pH levels and resist against tooth enamel.
Why it happens: Men tend to exercise in light fitting, loose shirts that create more friction. “The skin on the nipples is so sensitive that it doesn’t callous—when your foot gets rubbed, you develop a callus. Your nipples just bleed and bleed. And when you sweat, the salt on the nipples dries then rubs, and it’s like taking glass to your nipples.” It’s a pretty picture.
Make it stop: “We knows it’s all about friction,” says Weiss. Tape works the best, Weiss—who says he’s shaved people’s chests to put athletic tape over the nipples—notes. You can use skin lube, body glide, or ointments. But tape usually beats out these other options.