Monday, March 29, 2010

Running and Chafing

It sounds ridiculous, but chafing is basically a clothing-induced injury. Either your shorts, shirt or socks have rubbed you the wrong way for too long and now you've got a sore spot and possibly some blood on your hands. It's avoidable and non-runners think it's funny, which might make it all the more annoying. I don't know how many times I've heard "You run marathons? Is it true that people's nipples get chafed and bleed?!" It's right up there with "Did you lose a toenail?" (Answers: yes, but not mine; no, knock wood)

On yesterday's long run (11.5, flat, 55 and sunny) I wore a favorite Nike dri-fit T-shirt; fitted, low-rise Nike running shorts; a beloved Champion sports bra and the usual footwear, sunscreen and hat. I was very comfortable but that's not my point. When I got home, it turned out, the sports bra had injured me. Maybe, because I've been traveling, I've been wearing it too much. Maybe the elastic is getting old. I don't know. What I do know is that I now have a red line the length of my pinky running across my diaphragm, connecting my ribs, where the bra had been rubbing. It's not fatal, but for the sake of milking sympathy, here's a picture.

The problem with chafing is that now you have a sensitive spot that could get worse every time you run. Next thing you know, depending on your chafe spot of choice, you've got a giant bloody patch on each of your inner thighs, in the crease of your armpit or on the tip of each nipple. It's not sexy and it hurts. Literally, insult to injury!

What's the solution? As always, prevention is best.
  1. When buying new gear: Avoid shorts with a seam between the thighs and shirts and sports bras (if you wear them) with seams under the armpit. Spend what may feel like a ridiculous amount of time in the dressing room swinging your arms like you're running to check for rubbing. Then walk around to see if the shorts are going to bunch up. Rubbing, bunching and riding up are all deal breakers. Lastly, double check that you haven't accidentally fallen in love with anything that's made with cotton. I've said it before - love it for everyday wear, but for working out, cotton is rotten! 
  2. When the gear is home: Do a short test run, to check for potential hot spots. I have some shirts that I love, but when I wear then I always make sure to put Body Glide under my left arm. The longer you've been running, the more you'll know what your danger zones are. Mine are my sternum, under the left arm and, now, across my diaphragm. Those are the spots that I slather with Body Glide, which is the final step in prevention. 
  3. Before each run: Body Glide your chafe spots. It's like deodorant; just a quick swipe under the arm or between the thighs and you'll be good to go. And like deodorant, you'll notice more if it's missing than if it's there. My only beef with Body Glide is that it smells a little greasy, but it works better than Vaseline so I keep using it.
If all else fails, don't give up, just keep your chafed spot clean while it heals and turns into a callous. Hmm, callouses between the!

Good luck and happy running.