Maybe it's the cold sweat or the abdominal pain that gives you the signal...
Your body has just let you know that a bowel movement is arriving...now! And there's a very limited amount of time between hustling to the bathroom and pooping in your pants.
Most of the population can relate to an inopportune urgent need to have a bowel movement.
These moments include:
1. Mid-run on a residential street with nowhere to hide
2. Right before something nerve-racking like a test or presentation
3. During your evening walk while pregnant
Why does this occur? For some members of the population, IBS or Chron's disease may account for the frequent, urgent need to have a bowel movement in the form of diarrhea.
For the rest of us, it's probably constipation.
Before you assure me that your bowel movements are normal and you are definitely not constipated, if you are experiencing frequent and urgent bowel movements at inopportune moments, I will have to challenge you on that.
Normal bowel movements can be anywhere from 2x a day to 2x a week, but it's very individual for each person. Just because you do have a bowel movement once a day, doesn't mean you're not the type of person that needs a bowel movement more than once a day.
But there's more. We can be constipated for more reasons than just number of bowel movements a day.
If we are not spending enough time on the toilet for each bowel movement, we may not be giving ourselves a chance to completely empty, thereby developing constipation by leaving stool in the rectum to dry out further. I recommend spending 5-10 minutes on the toilet at a time.
The same goes for having poor mechanics on the toilet by way of straining. If we are bearing down or hovering over the toilet (I've been guilty of doing both), we are likely not fully emptying.
A tight and non-relaxing pelvic floor will also not allow for a full bowel movement to occur.
When we are constipated for any of these reasons, our bowel movements might alternate from hard, pellet-like stool to a sudden and intense need to void the entire contents of the bowel.
Why you're having urgent pooping mid-run
If you are constipated, exercise will usually help improve this! As you are jogging along, your bowel is gently moving up and down, giving it signals to start moving stool along! Each step gently oscillates and massages your GI tract, which has previously sat stagnant in your abdominal cavity.
That's great news, until suddenly your nervous system takes this opportunity to remedy your constipation. Sorry! Your GI doesn't recognize societal expectations of using a toilet in the privacy of your home, so you might find yourself trapped behind your neighbor's bush with your pants down.
Don't worry, managing your bowel movements and constipation will fix this issue in the future.
Now, if you are exercising more intensely on a regular basis, it's possible that the exercise itself is stressing your GI system, causing inflammation and poor motility, and tightening up your pelvic floor.
In this case, exercise is NOT going to be a remedy for constipation. You may or may not have urgent poops on your long runs, but I bet you're having considerable bloating and GI distress outside of your runs.
Right Before You Leave For (Anywhere You Need To Be)
Our nervous system is wired to pump blood away from our vital organs and into our muscles to fuel us in the midst of a dead sprint as we charge for the nearest tree to escape the sabor tooth tiger.
If you're running for your life, you're not going to have to stop and poop.
However, if you signal to your nervous system that you are going to be running for your life in the near future by way of intense, acute anxiety and stress, there's a good chance your nervous system is going to take the signal as an opportunity to rid the body of unnecessary waste prior to the fight for your life.
This is going to be particularly the case if you've been, you guessed it, constipated! If you are constipated, there is more than usual waste to get rid of.
This is how anxiety and stress can lead to urgent poops. Yep! It's all in your head, and it's also totally not.
On Your Nightly Walk During Pregnancy
Pregnancy presents a risk factor of constipation. In the first trimester it's the sudden increase in progesterone that causes the bowel to relax and feel like it's almost paralyzed!
Things usually loosen up and regulate in the second trimester, but in the third trimester we get constipated because there's less room for the bowel to move around baby.
As a result, you might find yourself with farts that can clear a room!
You also might find yourself with urgent, inopportune bowel movements, especially when you exercise.
Just like in our running scenario, a nice walk can be great for exercising the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system, but it provides a relaxing massage and gentle motility for your bowels as well!
Cue the sudden pooping in a neighbor's yard! yikes!
Although people with IBS and Chron's may suffer from urgent and frequent poops for diarrhea reasons, the rest of us are probably constipated.
When the urgent need to poop strikes, try not to panic. The more anxious you get, the more your system will try to flush it all out!
Practice breathing deeply and calming your nervous system while repeating affirmations like I am strong, I can do this, as you wait to use a restroom.
Can't wait? I totally get it. Maybe one of these days I'll write about all of the inopportune places I've had to use the toilet during the height of my pelvic floor dysfunction...
But that's for another day.
Need help sorting out your urgent bowel movements? Make sure you book your free consult today!