Hygiene for Runners: Essential Habits to Follow
So you have crossed the finishing line, won your medal, and now heading out for a post-marathon chat-over-breakfast session with your runner friends. But wait, are you going to spend another hour in those sweaty, stinky running clothes? That’s a bad idea. Instead, change into a fresh set and freshen up. If you are going home, go right into the shower — because sound hygiene practice is a must for all runners.
When running outdoors, you are exposed to dirt, dust, and fumes. Even if you choose to run on the treadmill, you’re exposed to the germs on the surfaces of gym equipment. To stay fit and keep away from illnesses, you have to follow a proper running hygiene routine. Here is a checklist of good hygiene habits for runners you should include.
1. Take a shower
Now, this seems obvious. You know the importance of showering to get rid of sweat, dirt and grime. But do you know you should take a shower right after your run instead of lazing around and showering later? Sitting in sweaty clothes can cause your skin to absorb the dirt, paving the way for irritation, rashes, clogged pores, and even skin breakouts.
2. Do your laundry
You should never re-wear running clothes even if you feel they are not too soiled. Not only would you risk a bacterial or yeast infection, you might also get acne and inflammation. Wash all your clothes, especially undergarments, after every use without waiting for bad odor to come off them. There are also detergents meant specifically for washing sportswear that help remove stench. If your clothes don’t smell fresh even after washing, consider purchasing new ones.
Don’t forget to wash your socks after every run. If you are putting them in the washing machine, choose the cold or delicate wash option so as to retain their shape and elasticity. Or better still, wash them by hand.
3. Groom your hands and nails
Washing your hands and trimming your nails should be part of your hygiene routine. Wash them right after your run before doing anything else.
Long toenails can become problematic while running, as they can scrape against your socks and shoes. Runners often have ingrown toenails, a consequence of wearing shoes all the time. You can prevent it by keeping your nails trimmed.
4. Trim body hair
Men and women have different preferences when it comes to trimming body hair. But as a runner, trimming is always a good option.
You sweat a lot while running, which ends up clinging to hair follicles and clogging your pores. This is favourable for bacterial growth and can cause rashes, irritation, and risk of infection. Some believe that smooth, hairless skin can also help increase speed and your overall performance.
5. Manage sweat and body odor
If you tend to sweat more while exercising, antiperspirants are a must-have. They block sweat pores and help reduce the amount of sweat secretion. It is most effective when applied on clean, dry skin, so apply at night before you go to bed.
Deodorants can be applied at any time of the day. It only masks bad body odor, but does not reduce sweat. Talcum powder too, can help control sweat and keep you dry.
6. Maintain menstrual hygiene
Women runners need to maintain good hygiene during menstrual cycles. Whether you choose sanitary pads, tampons, or menstrual cups, change them and your underwear right after your run as they would have absorbed sweat.
If you are new to running while on periods, keep in mind that tampons can become irritating if not inserted correctly. On the other hand, pads can cause chafing, if not worn properly. So, try not to wear anything new on race day. Stick with what you know works best for you.
Good hygiene is an important part of your running routine and sometimes it is the smaller things that make all the difference. Follow good habits to make your runs more enjoyable!
For more information, you can also listen to our podcast, Run with Fitpage, to learn some interesting insights and stories on running.
1. Kuzma C. Your Midrace Period Questions Answered. Runner’s World. 2015; published online Aug 14. https://www.runnersworld.com/women/a20849672/your-midrace-period-questions-answered/ (accessed Feb 23, 2021).
2. Segler C. Top 5 Mistakes Runners Make with Their Toenails. Doc On The Run. https://www.docontherun.com/top-5-mistakes-runners-make-with-their-toenails/ (accessed Feb 23, 2021).
3. The Truth About Male Body Hair. Nivea.co.uk. https://www.nivea.co.uk/advice/men/body-hair-to-shave-or-not-to-shave (accessed Feb 23, 2021).