How to Prevent Chafing While Running: Burn Calories, Not Your Skin
The gyms are still closed, the hiking trails may be inaccessible, and buying an expensive stationary bike is not an option for many; but, you still want to remain active and get in some healthy, outdoor exercise while under quarantine. Running is one of the best ways to help you de-stress, clear your mind and release those feel good endorphins into your body (which, we could all use in helping to elevate our moods during this unprecedented season). However, whether you’re an experienced distance runner or new on the scene, it may come at a painful price. Chafing; especially, during the summertime, is something most runners have experienced in their lifetime. You don’t have to be a marathon runner or a triathlete to join this non-exclusive club. Chafing is a skin irritation that can leave red, stinging marks on your body; and, is primarily caused by repeated friction and rubbing (either from skin to skin contact or from fabric to skin). Whenever we exercise and work out a good sweat, our bodies produce salt crystals. These salt residues remain on our skin, even after our sweat dries. If you add a very warm, climatic weather and sensitive prone skin (like mine) to the mix, you have a recipe for a fiery, hot skin irritation. But, don’t put away your running shoes just yet or resolve to put up with the daily annoying burn. There are 5 preventative tips that will help eliminate the chafing experience from your post-runs because at the end of the day, your goal is to burn calories, not your skin!
1. Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
Prior to your run, it is crucial to apply an unscented, moisturizing lotion, and an anti-chafing lubricant stick/cream to the areas that you are prone to chafe. Some common areas on the body that are susceptible to chafing include the abdominal area, back, chest, underarms, thighs or feet. By moisturizing and applying an anti-chafing balm before exercising, it allows your sweat to glide from your skin; and, in turn, prevents the harsh irritation from skin to skin friction. There are many anti-chafing creams and sticks on the market that are designed to address this issue amongst athletes. Run Guard is a great anti-chafing product I’ve found that actually does what it promises to do. It’s appearance can be mistaken for a regular deodorant or anti-perspirant stick; but, it’s actually a 100% plant based anti-chafing balm (no fragrances, artificial colors or added dyes here). It glides on smoothly and provides a protective barrier, absorbing moisture as you move and exercise. I specifically use Run Guard because of its safe, natural ingredients, which include organic shea butter, organic carnauba wax, organic coconut oil, organic aloe leaf and Vitamin E. It’s important to be aware of skin absorption from the products we use daily, and to avoid harmful ingredients (e.g. petroleum, FD&C Red 40, lanolin, mineral oils, parabens, phthalates, sulfates, alcohol and allergens) that can be found in many other anti-chafing creams. Run Guard is also made in the USA and offers a 100% money back guarantee, so you can try it out for yourself risk-free. The only thing you will regret is not having used it sooner!
2. Wear Proper Apparel
The type of fabric and material of clothing that is worn while running, plays a contributing role in the prevention of chafing as well. You want to avoid cotton material at all costs because cotton retains a lot of moisture and is prone to getting wet very quickly. Instead, look for dry fit or moisture wicking materials such as polyester, lycra, nylon or spandex, which are more breathable and lightweight fabrics. Now that you have the right synthetic fabric, you need to make sure that you have picked the appropriate size of running apparel. Do not wear loose or tight fitting clothes, which cause more friction from fabric to skin contact. In this case, channel Goldilocks. You’re looking for the ideal, ergonomic fit: not too big nor too small. From my experience, I used to chafe primarily from the seam on the band of my sports bras. After trying different athletic brands, I finally found one that offered everything I was looking for. It’s from a company called Zensah, which produces one of the best rated sports bras in the market, as well as other athletic apparel for both men and women (e.g. compression shorts, tops, pants, socks etc.). Their racerback sports bras, in particular, are specifically designed seamless to prevent chafing, are tagless, moisture wicking, anti-odor and quick drying. The sports bras also come in a variety of colors, and are produced with high quality material (very soft, comfortable and functional!). All of Zensah's products are made in the USA for fast shipping. In addition, they offer hassle-free returns; but, once you try it on for yourself, you will see why it’s rated as one of the best high-performance sports bras by Runner’s World.
3. Use a Cooling Towel
If you notice on your daily runs that your body is prone to excessive sweating; especially, in hot weather, it is a good idea to bring along a small, soft, terry cloth towel. You can place the cooling towel over your neck or inside your pocket, handy and accessible for those moments when you need to pause for a quick break and dry the excess sweat off. Gently pat the area dry and be careful not to rub against your skin, as that can cause further irritation. By wiping the excess sweat and salt residue, you can safely resume your workout. You can find cooling towels, which are specifically designed for outdoor activities, at your local sports apparel stores and various online retailers as well. Mission, in particular, is an innovative company that has developed a new, dual-sided cooling towel. The soft cloth side of the towel is used to absorb sweat as you move, while the reverse fabric side keeps you cool. In order to kick start its chemical-free cooling method, you need to follow their simple, 3 step guide of soaking the product beforehand with water, wringing the towel thoroughly and snapping it right back into its shape. Mission's cooling towel is also conveniently compact in size, anti-microbial and fade resistant. It has already generated excellent reviews from its customers, and with its many appealing design features, it's definitely worth getting!
4. Stay Hydrated
We’ve all heard the natural, healing and detoxifying powers of water. Since dry air and dry skin contribute to chafing, being mindful of our water consumption throughout the day, is vital in the prevention of skin abrasions and rashes as well. Especially, when exercising for a lengthy period of time, staying hydrated allows your body to keep perspiring. Perspiration, in turn, prevents sweat from drying into salt crystals. It is the concentration of salt on dry skin that increases chafing (the painful sensation of sandpaper like friction against your body). However, by drinking plenty of water (before, during and after exercise), you allow your body to sweat easily, minimizing the crystallization of salt; and, thereby reducing chafing.
5. Post-Run Care
Lastly, post-run self care is a necessary, preventive step to take. After you’ve finished exercising, it’s imperative to get out of your wet clothes immediately. Preferably, take a shower right away or change into clean, dry clothing. If you notice any redness, marks or sensitivity on your body, be sure to take a lukewarm, cooling shower/bath, as hot water will further irritate your skin. In order to prevent skin inflammation, avoid using any harsh loofas, scrubs or scented soap products as well. If you experience any painful stinging or noticeable scratches, applying a thin layer of over the counter anti-bacterial or topical ointments, such as hydrocortisone cream with aloe vera, can help soothe the irritated skin and speed up its healing time and recovery.
By being proactive and taking the 5 preventive steps above with the use of moisturizing lubricants, proper apparel, preparedness, hydration and self-care, your skin will thank you. It will also make your runs more enjoyable because at the end of the day the only burn you want to feel is that of calories melting away. Now, go enjoy some fresh air and have a happy (chafe-free) run!