No matter what type of sport you play or participate in, there’s usually the “gross factor” – something uniquely unsavory about what it does to your body and the unsanitary conditions you put yourself through to stay in shape and feel energized. When you’re running outside, you don’t really think about all of the dirt, dust, and grime you’re exposed to.
Runners are exposed to all sorts of debris outdoors – inhaling dust, fumes, and particles in the air as we speed along the road. We still expose ourselves to some germs at the gym if we’re putting in miles on the treadmill and touching equipment and then wiping our faces without a towel.
Getting sick or contracting an infection can cause a domino effect that leaves you in pain, with skin breakouts or blisters – and that’s not part of the fun of running! Even though you can’t pay attention to everything you do that’s risky to your hygiene, paying closer attention to your habits while you’re hitting the trail can help ward off germs and possible healthy ailments somewhere down the line.
In general, some people care more about their hygiene than others, but for runners who may be on the trail for more than an hour or two – make sure you go down this checklist of habits to follow that you may not have considered before!
Wash Those Hands!
You may not think about it while you’re out on that long run, but touching the ground, gripping onto a fence, concrete/brick wall or a park bench when you take a break can leave more dirt on your hands, body or face than you realize.
Public fixtures and structures aren’t exactly cleansed, dusted or sterilized – so when you’re sitting to take a break and casual grip something for leverage, think about the surface and where your hands will be next! You might wind up wiping your face and spreading dirt, metal particles, concrete dusts and other specks of dirt into your pores and on your skin cells.
Maybe you’re at the park and haven’t brought your own water bottle so you hydrate at the nearest fountain. It’s disgusting to think about, but it’s true – you’re touching a fixture that’s been pawed by hundreds of others along the trail, including birds, squirrels and tons of other creatures/wildlife.
It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that you’re not making contact with anyone or anything when you’re out there alone racking up the miles, but there will be plenty of moments where you have no choice and you don’t want to get sick from exposure to unknown contaminants.
If you can, stash a small packet of antibacterial gel in your pocket – or your backpack if you’re at a race and don’t have access to soap and water – and always wash your hands when you return home from a run.
Also, if you’re running in windy conditions along a trail, debris can still get in your hands – unless you’re wearing gloves in the winter. Another way to combat accidentally transferring dirt from your hands to your face or other body parts is to always bring a towel or bandana on your runs. While gross and grimy, a lot of runners need to wipe their noses during a brisk trek – and the worst thing you can do is use a dirty hand to try and keep your nose from running too! Having a towel or bandana – maybe even a few tissues or paper towels – can help keep debris from the elements away from your face so you can focus on staying clean and germ-free!
Break Away From Breakouts!
Runners have to stay conscious of rehydrating as they’re sweating to replace fluids and electrolytes. While drinking a lot helps replenish while flushing toxins from the pores, your face is another place that becomes a magnet for dust and debris as you’re running.
Think about how many runs you endure over the summer (if you tend to run a lot in the hotter weather) where you’re sweating profusely for hours on end. Even though it’s healthy to sweat it out, your skin is also susceptible to attracting dirt that can sit in your pores – anywhere on your body – and cause irritation and breakouts.
Consider this – if you run outside along the streets and you pass a construction zone, you may not think about the dust and dirt flying around you that can cling to your skin. There are so many other microscopic and unhealthy particles that your sweaty skin can attract! Make sure you wash your face and neck thoroughly when you return from a run, even if you plan on showering later. The longer the dirt sits on your pores, the more likely you are to irritate your skin and develop breakouts.
This is one reason why experts always advise that runners change their clothes after a long trek. Bacteria and sweat – the perfect hotbed for germs – are building inside of your running clothes, but it’s not only a matter of hygiene. You could be sporting tighter gear – including the best running socks – that was fine for your run, but affect your blood circulation and cleanliness. Packing some loose-fitting clothes to change into after a long race/run will help your skin breathe better and you won’t have to withstand that soggy and cold-sweat sensation.
Keep in mind that if you tend to have oily skin, your post-running cleanup habits – or lack thereof – can be exacerbating your breakouts.
The great thing about running on a regular basis is that it can be an overall advantage for the elasticity of your skin, as it assists with blood circulation, regenerating cells and delivering oxygen to your epidermis. In order to reap the benefits of healthy skin, make sure you put your best face forward to ward off nasty breakouts!
Avoiding A Hairy Situation!
Not only can your pores get clogged from running/sweating and not cleaning/drying your skin afterward, lack of personal hygiene when it comes to shaving, or not shaving, could make a big difference!
Men and women have an array of personal preferences when it comes to their shaving regimens, no matter what part of the body they keep groomed. Another hotbed for germs is sweaty/wet, damp and hairy places on your body, some which may be covered the entire time you’re running.
If you’re a guy, you may think that keeping underarm hair shaved – or short – is a female thing. Think again! There’s no shame in shortening/trimming that underarm hair (or even leg hair) a bit to prevent sweat from hanging around for longer than it needs to. It may seem like common sense that more hair leads to more perspiration, but clogged pores, chafing and heat rashes aren’t fun to endure or cure.
Obviously, sweat clings to hair follicles – and if you’re running for long periods of time without being able to shower immediately afterward, your pores will subsequently continue to battle expelling all of those secretions they needed to purge. We’re not saying shave your entire body until you’re as smooth as a seal, but be mindful of having hair in your face and other places on your body that may lead to skin problems after your amazing trek.
Stay Fresh Ladies!
There’s no reason why women can’t or shouldn’t run while they’re menstruating. Many women might avoid running during this time of the month simply because it’s uncomfortable for them or they’re experiencing pains that put a damper on their running plans.
For women who can still keep up with their training during this time, make sure your feminine hygiene products can withstand your trekking and always bring extra products with you. There are tons of compact running belts with stowaway pockets and pouches to keep your “supplies” handy on the trail – and you may not want to wait until you get home to freshen up.
Women also face different health challenges than men – regardless of whether they’re runners or not. Female runners have to contend with ailments such as yeast infections and urinary tract infections (UTI) more often than men do.
There’s a slew of ways women might contract infections that could be brought on by bad hygiene habits. Staying fresh during and after a run means avoiding underwear and pants made of cotton or organic fibers that can trap moisture and cause excessive itching/sweating. If you’re a woman who is susceptible to UTIs, you may want to drink ample water during your run and cleanse your system out more often to avoid recurrence of infections.
The Power Of Powder
Of all the hygiene products out there for runners, you might not think to write down powder first on your list. However, there are powders on the market to not only keep you fresh and dry, but there are also powders that be useful after your run.
While standard baby powder/talcum powder will help with sweat/odor absorption and can prevent chafing all over your body, medicated powder, such as Gold Bond, can decrease friction, help your skin stay dry and ward off/tame rashes including athlete’s foot.
Don’t just think about powder as some dusty white mineral that’s only for your skin! Good hygiene habits mean keeping your sneakers dry and fresh too – something powder can help with hours after/before your run. Sprinkling powder into your sneakers after your run and letting them air out can help prevent that funky stench from forming – something you don’t want to smell the next time you slip those kicks on to go for a run!
Since there are so many powders and body sprays out there on the market – and some creams that have a powdery substance for your feet, make sure you test them out to see which one works for you. Using the anti-fungal powder in conjunction with moisture-wicking running socks can also help your feet stay fresh and dry.
Have you thought about all of the ways your hygiene could be affecting your health before and after your run? Regardless of how conscious you are about your habits outside of your running life, it’s super important to take care of your body as you’re conquering those running milestones. Stay healthy and keep trekking!