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Most people have an embarrassing story about stepping on the gas. Everyone farts, but doing it in public – at least audibly – seems like one of the most taboo things to do. We’ve all been through this; the pressure builds up and you slip out or you decide to let it go for fear of your insides exploding. But “there” is variable, and whether you are in the grocery store, classroom, conference room, or airplane, the best you can hope for is a quiet one that can be passed off as someone else’s or that isn’t too much rank. I’m not about the occasional dusting when I have to, but I try to hold it together when I’m in public spaces because that’s gross and I expect the same from others.
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But I can’t keep the same promise when I’m training. My body doesn’t give a shit when I’m in a yoga studio or CrossFit gym. My ability to cope with this is knowing that I am not alone: training makes us fart.
When my children were babies and had what are known as stuck farts, I would lay them on their backs, press their knees gently to their chests, and then cycle my legs for them. Or I would let her bounce gently up and down on my knee. These compressions changed her breathing and physically moved the uncomfortable air out of her body. I moved my baby’s body to make him fart. Inadvertently, movement does the same thing in adults. I’m not the only one who has struggled through a happy baby pose or a front squat without letting go of one.
Peyton Berookim, MD, director of the Gastroenterology Institute of Southern California, says, “Any exercise that involves bending or twisting can literally cause the air in our digestive tracts to be forced out.” Did someone survive a yoga session without farting ?
Weight training and weight lifting are often my most bloating times. I show no reluctance to exercise at home and am grateful for the social distancing during the CrossFit class.
Breathing is an important part of strength training, especially for those of us who practice Olympic lifts or lift heavy loads with dumbbells. To be clear, breathing is always important during exercise, but the technique often used in weight training is called the Valsalva maneuver.
The idea is to take a deep breath and hold it throughout the range of motion of the lift by exhaling on the top or finished part of the lift. For example, when doing a squat, most strength athletes take a deep breath before they begin lowering into the squat, and then hold it until they return to their upright, standing position. Inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth reduces the build up of air in your body. But unless all of the held air is escaping through your mouth, it will likely come out of your butt. What kind of sport, right?
This type of breathing also reminds exercisers to support the core, but squeezing the midline means squeezing the colon; If you tense your body to push this repetition out, chances are you’ll also be pushing a fart out.
Sticking to aerobic exercise won’t save you either. If you’ve never started a jogging or jumping rope session without a few throttles of the gas, what kind of cyborg are you? Dr. Berookim reminds us that our insides speed up the digestive process, which causes the gas in our GI tract to escape at higher and stronger rates. See runner’s diarrhea for evidence. Dehydration can also cause diarrhea, so make sure you are drinking enough water while exercising.
But don’t swallow it if you don’t want a bloating anus. Wait until your breathing has slowed down and you are able to take small sips, otherwise you will just invite more air into your body that needs to get outside.
Also, be careful what you eat before you exercise. High-fiber foods like beans and vegetables or wheat and whole grains are good for you, but they can cause a lot of gas. Add in some jumping, power snatches, or down dog and you will likely clear the gym. Sugary energy drinks or carbonated water do the same. Since I don’t have to heat up the intestinal fire, I stick to muesli and yogurt, oatmeal or a spoonful of peanut butter about an hour before training. Do you know what is not good A bowl of egg, sausage and potato. Fortunately, it was homework.
I’m not advocating being a reckless idiot when you are in the gym, but know that if you suddenly realize you need to fart or realize it is too late, you are not alone. It can be painful to hold on to, so let go of it when no one is around. If there are people around, excuse yourself and go to the bathroom – or at least an empty part of the gym. Squeaking a fart through your cheeks while exercising isn’t the end of the world, nor are you the only one in the world who has this happened to you. It is what it is – and sometimes it stinks.
Have fun training, friends.