I have a love/hate relationship with showering after a run. Especially in the summer and training as an ultrarunner where many of my weekend runs are long runs. Running in the south comes with plenty of heat and humidity. You can run in the early morning before the sun comes up, but the humidity in the warm air makes it feeling like you are taking in water on every breath.
After a good day of miles and relishing in a solid effort, there are not a lot of things that are better than a nice long shower for me. But sometimes, I hate them. You turn on the water and adjust the temperature. When the water feels perfect, you get into the shower and let the water rain down over your head. And yet, within about 5 seconds, the shower is interrupted by the sensation that you have been set on fire.
Let’s be honest with each other here. There is pain, and then there is the pain felt when taking a shower after a long run. You may scream, groan, cry or even just grit your teeth as you move out of the spray, but you know it as well as I do..it is only a matter of time before more water runs across one of those spots and you feel that searing pain again. You know it when you feel that water hit. Friends, meet chafing. Chafing, meet my friends.
If you have had the good fortune of never experiencing chafing before then you can just ignore the rest of this post. However, if you have, then you are a kindred spirit and we can be friends. This post will give you some ideas of what I do to prevent chafing and also ways that I attempt to treat it. These are just my ideas and I may be going about it all the wrong way. But, since you’re here, here is what I know.
What is Chafing?
The most simplified answer: chafing is the result of skin rubbing against skin, or skin rubbing against clothing.
Friction is the culprit here and when your skin rubs against skin or clothing for an extended period of time the friction between them causes the skin to wear down and become irritated. Add a little moisture from sweat and this, my friends, is where the magic happens. Literally, the magic. Our skin is the largest organ of our entire body. So, we have a lot of it which means a lot of opportunities for chafing to show up.
In order to not be too graphic, let’s let our brains do the wandering to save my fingers from doing the typing. I want you to take a few minutes and think about your body. Where are all the places that your skin can rub against skin? If you are unsure, once you chafe the first time, it will become obvious. For me, learning to prevent chafing has only been learned after the fact, once I have chafed.
Over the course of the years I feel like I have experienced chafing EVERYWHERE that is possible. Some of my chafing highlights include, inner thighs, arm pits (due to hydration pack), hips (due to shorts), nipples, lower back (due to shorts), middle of back (due to hydration pack), neckline (due to hydration pack), and man parts…yes, man parts…and yes, all parts of my man parts. Let’s pause for a moment here. Pain in these parts is indescribable. Okay, moving on.
Hopefully my personal list above has helped you breathe a sigh of relief. You aren’t the only one dealing with that pain in the shower after your run. But there are some tips and tricks you can do to prevent them and treat them.
How do you treat it?
As I said before, the only way to prevent chafing is to know where you are susceptible to chafing. And, unfortunately, for many of us that generally only happens after we experience it. There are a lot of creams on the market that you can use for treating chafing and, in general, the pain tends to resolve itself within 24-48 hours. Personally, I find that using Aquaphor for the worst cases and letting the spots get some air has given me the quickest recovery. Other people have found different products effective for treatment. A quick Google search though can yield a lot of options. Or, you can head to your local nearby pharmacy and pick something up to soothe the pain.
Quick tip: When you take that shower, if you see the hot spot before you get in, you can dab a little vaseline on that spot and then you won’t feel like you have been set on fire.
How do you prevent it?
Now that we know where we tend to chafe, we can pull out the entire arsenal of products that are now available for preventing it. From powders that reduce moisture like talcum powder, anti-monkey butt powder, to products like Vaseline, Body Glide, Squirrel’s Nut Butter, etc etc. Clothing options that are moisture wicking can help remove moisture from the crevices and compression shorts can also be helpful. All that being said, you will want to find a product that works best for you.
I live in the Southeast where we have high humidity and high dew points for most of our summers. Sweating is a major player in chafing for me. When I prepare for a long run I lather myself up in a tub of vaseline, throw a few bandaids on my nipples, get dressed and head out the door. It works for me, and although it is a lot of prep, I relish my shower afterward when I don’t shriek out in pain.
Let me hear from you. Have you felt this pain before? How do you prevent it or treat it? Favorite product that you swear by?
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