Managing Runner’s Rash

womam running

So just to be clear, I’m not quite from that class of runner that lauds their physical pain like a badge of honour. I don’t want my nipples to feel like they’ve experienced head-to-head battle with a cheese grater or for my thighs to feel like they’ve been enthusiastically exfoliated with 60 grit sandpaper. I see no point in suffering when something that be minimised or avoided altogether. Prophylactic is both my middle name and mission statement.

With that in mind, you’ll understand that I don’t buy into the concept that chafing is a runner’s rite of passage. Hello?? - we know what chafing is and how to prevent it. If you’re unschooled on that information, let me enlighten you. And in the event, you’ve glossed over the important bits, I’ll even share my best tips on how to treat any existing chafing. 

So, what is chafing?

The scientific types in white lab coats describe it as a skin injury, induced by friction that causes microscopic tears in the outer layer of skin. This in turn causes the layer of skin below to become red, raw and irritated. In extreme cases, badly chafed skin will bleed. Loosely translated this means sore. Really, really sore. Vulnerable areas are thighs, upper arms and pits, under breasts and nipples. Your post-run shower will identify any other areas I may have overlooked.

It stands to reason that runners and endurance athletes are more likely to experience friction owing to the repetition of movements, skin-to-skin contact of multiple body parts, inevitably combined with sweat. Throw in some water sports or damp weather conditions, and you’ve unwittingly created a perfect chafing environment. Salt, whether from sweat residue or salt water will aggravate it even further. So, even if you battle to read between the lines, you’ll easily understand that prevention is all-important and most definitely better than cure.

How to prevent chafing

  • Stick to wearing synthetic, sweat-wicking fabrics which draw sweat away from the body and minimise rubbing or irritation.
  • Avoid seams and tags wherever possible
  • Ensure clothing is the best possible fit – too tight and too loose can both be problematic
  • Project vulnerable skin with a long-lasting, anti-chafe cream. Embrace the instruction to “apply generously”
  • Wear running tights and some form of nipple protection
  • Stay hydrated before, during and after exercise, allowing you to perspire freely. This way the perspiration doesn't dry into salt crystals that can exacerbate the chafing.
  • Keep your skin well moisturised – it makes it less prone to chafing

How to treat existing chafing

In the unfortunate event that you have experienced chafing - eish – sorry sister, here’s a few pointers to help out.

  • Shower in lukewarm water and use an antibacterial soap.
  • Pat dry with a clean and soft towel
  • Apply a light application of Thank Goodness to help alleviate inflammation and irritation
  • Keep the area clean and dry to avoid any growth of bacterial and yeast infections
  • If symptoms persist, seek medical advice

I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t take this opportunity to extol the virtues of Thank Goodness Anti-Chafe cream (cool name by the way, girls). It ticks all the boxes for me:

  • It’s really moisturising and is formulated with Lanolin (tick) and Tea-tree oil (another tick)
  • It’s not sticky or greasy, it absorbs quickly and won’t stain your clothing or kit
  • It creates an invisible barrier that really delivers on protection against chafing and friction
  • It’s got a light herbal fragrance but it dissipates quite quickly

For a light run, a single application gives me all the protection I need, but if I’m pushing it or if conditions are unfavourable (really hot, humid or wet), I’ll reapply as needed.

See you on the road!

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