Radhika Meganathan finds out the hard way that you need to be prepared ahead to deal with chafed skin resulting from running.
Spring in Central Park is magical. Flowers are in full bloom, the air is mild and fresh, and the winding pathways along pretty fountains and interesting landscaping offer the best running experience for novice and experienced alike. And there I was, happily jogging at my own pace when the climate suddenly changes – the sun shone with all its might and the day turned sultry. Oops!
But no problem, I am in New York and I am not going to allow a hot day – bah! I am a Chennaite and I am no stranger to the heat! – to deter me from my afternoon run. So I proceeded, until I became slowly aware of a burning in the area where my inner thighs made contact. In less than half an hour, I was in agony and unable to even step one foot forward. The pain was worse than a toothache!
I had no other choice but to collapse on the grass, and even after resting for an hour, the pain didn’t alleviate. Finally, I had to wobble like a duck to the nearest exit (each step was like walking on burning embers) and hail a taxi to the nearest pharmacy. All in all, a very costly lesson in Preventing Chafing 101!
What is Chafing?
Repetitive contact between skin and skin, or skin and clothing, can cause painful chafing, which, if untreated, can become an open wound. It’s common for runners to experience chafing on the armpits, groin area or inner thighs, since those body parts create friction when running. You can be especially prone to chafing on a hot and humid day, but really, chafing can occur any time. If your skin is already chafed, here’s what to do:
- If you are outside and in agony because of your chafed skin, leave immediately. Do not keep running or walking.
- If you are not able to leave immediately, your best bet is to borrow or buy coconut oil or Vaseline and smear it on the offending areas. The idea is to stop the dry chafing, which is the reason behind all the pain. By introducing a lubricant like an oil or Vaseline, you will be able to experience temporary relief until you get home, or make it to the pharmacy.
- At the pharmacy, you can opt for a number of remedies, such as anti-chafing ointments. Remember, you need a cooling salve to soothe the burning skin, so clearly ask for the right product for your chafing.
- If your chafed skin is inflamed on the verge of breaking out, choose a salve with antibacterial properties. Even diaper rash cream works wonders.
- In case the chafed skin is throbbing or bloody, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Prevention is always better than cure, so here are some preventive measures to avoid chafing:
- Wear clothing that allows optimum movement, lets your skin breathe and absorbs extra moisture. Lycra, Spandex and polyester material do the trick.
- Wear compression shorts under your running outfit. Before putting on your shorts, apply a layer of baby powder on your inner thighs and groin. This will prevent friction when you run.
- Hydrate. Drinking a lot of water keeps the salt concentration in your sweat minimum. Why is this good news? Because salt irritates skin, especially chafed skin.
- Never do a long walk or run in a skirt, especially in hot weather. Naked skin creates the quickest and most painful chafing.
- Always carry a small tub of Vaseline whenever you run. You will be glad you did!