OK, fess up. The biggest reason you think you can’t run is that you’ll have a desperate, undeniable urge to pee ten minutes after you leave the vicinity of a bathroom. I know I’m right because the very first thing I Googled when I started running was just that. How to stay hydrated and not get home squelching in your sneakers.
The most important thing is: DO NOT LET THIS ISSUE STOP YOU FROM RUNNING. It is totally manageable. It just takes some planning and experimentation to set your mind at ease.
When I first Googled this, this is what I found, a sweet blog post, from the blog Run for Fun.
I found the advice in the post very sound. I was running in the morning when I first started, so I drank a 16-ounce glass of water as soon as I woke up and then waited an hour before I ran.
Except that, being the inertia-driven snail that I am, it was often much longer than an hour – often two or three hours – after drinking that I actually went out running. And I was petrified to drink anything after my prescribed 16 ounces, and I wasn’t drinking while running.
Go figure, I started feeling kind of funny after running, slightly lightheaded, a little woozy, and it finally dawned on me that I was probably somewhat dehydrated. Doh!
So I came up with an alternate plan. Please be aware that:
- I am not a doctor or a trainer – please read the disclaimer at the side of the page. This is what works for me, that it probably won’t work for everyone.
- This routine is for my regular running, for exercise and health, not for races. I would probably follow the advice in the blog post for long races if I ever were to do one. For a 5K, I don’t think it’s necessary to do anything different than for a training run.
- My sessions are, so far, no longer than an hour. The people at Marathon Sports in town – lovely people who are never dismissive of an older, ignorant-about-running person and are always supportive – tell me that the rule of thumb is that you don’t need to carry water if you’re out for an hour or less. However, I think this is true only in cool or cold weather (see below).
- My routine is different during hot weather when it is guaranteed that I am gong to sweat out most or all of what I have taken in before and during the run.
So here’s what I do now, which has totally worked for me even on the hottest days. Once I had my Homer Simpson moment and started following this routine, I have never felt lightheaded or woozy after a run like I did before I switched routines.
- I do NOT drink a huge glass of water when I wake up. I have a 3 or 4 moderate gulps – I’m guessing an ounce or so per gulp – and then take one or two mouthfuls when I feel thirsty.
- I pee many times before going out. I am fully aware that this is neurotic behavior, but the prospect of having to wet my running pants is not a scenario that I want to make a reality. Well, actually, I don’t care about the pants, especially as some of them, the ones that seem like they’re made of light-weight wet-suit material, probably don’t really show that they’re wet; it’s the sneakers I’m not too keen on soaking and squelching home in – especially as I run in my neighborhood and don’t love the prospect of it being obvious to my neighbors that I’ve just had “an accident”. So if I have any urge to pee while I’m warming up, I do it. And even if I totally don’t have to pee just before I go out, I go.
- I used to use the the 18-ounce “Soft Flask” (squishy bottle) in my Nathan VaporKrar Waist Pack, (which I love – it is essentially pockets for everything I need while running) and I only used it when it was hot. When it’s going to be really hot the next morning, I put the bottle about 1/3 full of water in the freezer the night before and top it off with water in the morning. If I forget to put it in the freezer, I put a few ice cubes in it before filling it.
- I recently purchased the NathanNathan ExoDraw 18OZ Handheld because I found I wasn’t using the flask in the belt just because of the hassle of getting it in and out of the pocket in the back of the belt.
- The Handheld is lovely because I can just take a mouthful whenever I find I’m thirsty. It looks a little the worse for wear in the picture, with some of the letters and parts of the stripes coming off, but there’s no impact on its usefulness. One thing about both Nathan bottles is that the caps can be difficult to get on properly, especially when they’re new. Make sure the cap is absolutely evenly placed, not tilted, before you start screwing it on. Sometimes pushing the cap down first or screwing it backwards a bit can help. Hold the bottle upside-down over the sink, especially in cold weather so you don’t have water leaking down your butt when the bottle is in your belt.
- I drink from my bottle when I’m running and I’m thirsty. When I’m running and it’s hot, I don’t worry at all about how much I drink en route. On hot days I sometimes drink nearly the whole bottle – or all of it that I don’t squirt on my head and the back of my neck. If it’s not super hot, I just take a mouthful when I’m thirsty or I’m panting so much my mouth is dry.
- I have to remember to be more cautious in cold weather, particularly when the seasons are changing and I’ve been used to sweating a lot while I’m running. The gulps need to be less frequent beforehand and I don’t even take my bottle with me when it dips below 50. I’ve got so many layers on it’s harder to get the bottle in and out of my belt and I don’t really need it when I’m going for less than an hour. I haven’t had the Handheld in cold weather, but I think it might be awkward with gloves or mittens.
If I wasn’t running with my dog I could go into places to use the bathroom. Having in mind places you can stop is a good thing to have if you goof and overindulge – or if you’re just nervous and want to be prepared. I think if you think about it too much it can make you think you have to pee when you don’t. If you don’t have options of places you can duck into, you can also run in loops around your house when you start, so you can duck in when you have to and calibrate whether what you’re doing is working.
Make sure your pants, whether running leggings or just non-chafing streeetwear, are not too tight, making you feel like you have to go when you don’t. I found undies made of 75% Polyester, 25% Polyurethane, The Gap’s Invisible Hipster, to be helpful in eliminating the stress of tight leggings. They are synthetic, so sweat-wicking, seamless, very light-weight, and don’t move around or grip too tightly. I don’t know I’m wearing them, but they keep my leggings from doing any bunching.
It could be that my weight loss has helped in this department or it could be just the effect of the exercise on my muscles, but I am far less likely to have gotta-pee urgency in daily life now that I’ve been running.
The most important thing is to not let this issue stop you from running. The second most important is to make sure you don’t become dehydrated. The third is to find a routine that works for you, test it out so that you have confidence that it works, and then JUST DON’T THINK ABOUT IT.
Happy pee-free running!