There are few things that can weigh on the back of a runner’s mind like the possibility of bad chafing. As temperatures rise in the northern hemisphere, the problem of chafing only gets worse for runners. And it can absolutely negatively impact your race, or personal best attempts.
Put simply chafing is irritation and bruising of the skin from excessive friction. Nipples and thighs are most vulnerable, while women runners also suffer some chafing on the sides if they wear an improper or unfit sports bra. When running excessive temperatures, over-sensitive skin and bad apparel fabrics can increase risk of chafing. Another reason for chafing is your own sweat, Sweat is a mixture of liquids and salt and as you get dehydrated while running, the amount of liquid you push out through sweat reduces, thereby not washing the salts away. This is akin to rubbing a rough piece of wood or sandpaper against your skin – the minute grains of salt can accumulate in certain areas to make minor cuts on your skin which gets inflamed.
Staying safe from a chafe is not a one-time thing but an ongoing process that requires you to pay attention to your skin and adjust for a variety of factors. For example, it could be a particularly humid race, or a bad diet that has caused you to sweat a lot more. You can cope with it by focusing on these five solutions.
Know your body
While chafing generally occurs in nipples, thighs and armpits, the degree of the bruising differs for each runner. Know which spots of your body are most vulnerable. This should be apparent to you in training. You can’t simply wish the chafing away on a race day. Protect these problem areas with anti-friction lubricant or medical tape and make this a regular part of your pre-race prep.
Know what works for you
Each type of lubricant or anti-friction powder will have a different effect on your body. Sometimes you don’t even require these solutions and a simple Band-Aid tape is enough. Then different types of sweat-wicking fabrics will work differently for your volume of perspiration. Adjust your choice according to what works in keeping your body free of sweat. Sweat-wicking technical tops also tend to reduce friction better than an average cotton t-shirt which can be brutal for your nipples and sides.
Know your clothing
Speaking of tops, get to know compression apparel such as shorts or tights or even a snug top. This drastically reduces friction by keeping things neat and snug, and also may have a positive impact on your performance. You may need some time to break into your first pair, but once you get used to working out in compression wear, you won’t turn back. These days you get compression wear that’s more than just a tight piece of fabric. With resistance bands inserted between layers, they can also be deep workout for your muscles.
Know when to act
There’s no time to waste when you feel a bad chafing coming on. Just stop running and apply some kind of relief lubricant, ointment or powder. If this happens in a race, don’t worry about your finishing time. Get immediate medical assistance as bad chafing can often result in blood loss too. If you are feeling dehydrated despite having consumed enough water, just splash some on yourself so that those sharp salt granules can be washed away, before applying treatment.
Know how to react
Sometimes the pain of a chafing will not dawn on a runner till the finish line is crossed. Adrenaline and endorphins tend to dull the pain signals to a certain extent. But check yourself out in a mirror and thoroughly clean the area with anti-microbial soap and water to remove dirt and salt mixture. To stop any bleeding apply pressure as in a pin prick, and see a doctor if it persists. Finally take some time at home to let the chafed areas air out under a cool fan breeze. It will bring you great relief and help the wound heal faster.