running and bathroom issues

Welcome to another round of TMI? No Such Thing! And we may be onto our best round yet: Running and bathroom issues.

We imagine, if you’re reading this, that you are a runner. And that, at some point in some run, you have had to either pee or poop while on the run. Hopefully it’s the former because the latter can create for some pretty intense situations, but either way, you likely know that even though our bodies are amazing physiological phenoms that can run for miles and miles, they also have to answer the call of nature at some pretty inconvenient times.

When running and bathroom issues collide for you, here are some of our best tried-and-true tips.

Step #1: Need to go? Find a true bathroom or port-a-potty if possible.

If you’re running anywhere suburban or urban, think about changing up your route to find a real toilet.

Some spots we’d recommend considering:
—Construction sites (especially on the weekend, when workers are at a minimum);
—Recreation centers or gyms (they should be especially sympathetic!);
—Hospitals and hotels typically have public bathrooms near the lobby;
—Public libraries and parks;
—And, of course, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, and coffee shops. It’s worth it to bring a few dollars with you so you can grab a cold bottle of water—and ease any guilt you might feel for asking to use the facilities.

If you’re feeling especially brave and are in a neighborhood you’d deem safe, consider knocking on a door and asking to use the facilities. We’ve heard from a handful of women who have opted to go this route, and we’ve never heard of somebody getting a door slammed in her face.

[More TMI Help: Everything you need to know about chafing on the run.]

Step #2: No bathroom and need to pee? You’ve got plenty of options.

When it’s just your bladder that needs some emptying, your options are as endless as the landscape around you (and your level of comfort with baring your buns in public).

—Perhaps the most popular option around AMR: Sarah’s planter sit. During a marathon training run in Portland, she sat on the edge of a large planter. “I let the stream flow,” she remembers, “Yes, through my capris and onto the cement under my bum. Eventually it started running down onto the pavement beneath me, but I made a slight production out of waving my water bottle around, so surveillance cameras (or passing motorists) would think it was spilling water, not pee. Only a tiny bit ran down my legs into my shoes. I stood up, relieved and ready to bust out those speedier two miles.”

—The planter-sit maneuver can also be used on a wide stone wall, or anywhere else you can plant your bum in a place where not many people sit. (We don’t recommend the move on, say, a park bench.)

—More of a rural setting? Jump behind a tree or a bush. Fields of corn are especially good, according to many women who run by them.

—When you’re at a race, don’t overestimate how little people are paying attention to you. Duck between cars or have a friend hold up their sweatshirt to create a small modesty curtain.

—Similarly, at a race aid station, grab several cups of water, and pour them over you to ‘cool you off,’and to hide any peeing you have to do at the same time. Nobody will be the wiser.

—Finally, we weren’t sure if this is more useful under the “no bathroom” category or the “port-a-potty” category, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Female Urination Devices (or FUDS). Products like Urinelle, Go Girl, SheWee, the original female urination device, allow you to pee standing up by providing a funnel to direct the flow away from the body (and shoes!)

[More TMI Help: Everything you need to know about periods and running.]

Step #3: No bathroom and need to poop? A little trickier, but it can be done.

Our best pooping advice is to clear your chute prior to heading out, but we realize that your intestines aren’t always the most reliable thing going.

Two ideas to get gain some momentum: First, we’re all about the pre-run warm beverage—coffee, tea, hot water with a lemon—to loosen things up a bit.

Second, if you know you need to go but can’t swing it yet, give yourself a mile (or shorter) warm-up near your house or a bathroom, then circle back, make a deposit, then head out again.

When a perfect storm occurs—you have to go #2 and there’s not a bathroom to be found—here’s some advice:

—Find the place with the most coverage: a bush, a ditch, a tree with a wide trunk. Ideally, you’re not near a river, stream or other natural body of water.

—Do your best to dig a hole with a stick or thick piece of bark, then bury it afterward. We know it’s not super convenient, especially when you’re doing the gotta-go dance, but it’s truly the most sanitary, helpful thing to do. Then, of course, cover the hole when you’re done.

—Do your business. If there are leaves around that seem suitable for toilet paper—and you’re 100% they’re not poisonous—give ’em a go. Otherwise, splashing a little water in the area can be a on-the-run bidet.

—Or, do as one mother runner does and pack accordingly: She never leave home without a snack-size baggie filled with 2-3 flushable wipes. “Nothing compares to the chafe from not-so-properly cleaned butt cheeks!” she says. We agree.

What did we miss? What are your tips for running and bathroom issues?